Review! Batman, Incorporated, Vol. 2: “Gotham’s Most Wanted” [No Spoilers]

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This is the conclusion of a longsuffering, up-and-down trip with the Dark Knight, one that is long overdue to end. Grant Morrison has had his moments with this mega arc over the years, and strictly speaking, as a follow-up to the superb-in-every-way Batman: Son of the Demon story, it really does succeed. There’s a lot of chaff–a lot of chaff in the mix here–but as I was reading this last volume of the Batman, Inc. story, I found myself charmed at its ability to revisit almost all of the characters and stops on the way. It many ways, it reads a lot like Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern: Rise of the Third Army : a huge, final showdown between the titular hero and a longsuffering villain that reboots that hero’s corner of the New 52 retroactively. I suppose it’s not a coincidence that these two titles are the ones who enjoyed softer reboots when DC reset back in 2011.

Batman Inc. V.2Morrison gets credit here for elevating the most interesting part of this conflict to its highest point during the run: the clash between Talia and Batman over their son, their hearts, and the world itself gets all of the attention it needs, and it’s great attention. There’s violence, passion, heartbreak, and that genuinely sorrowful sense of lovers who cannot reconcile their differences for each other in this story. The attraction between Talia and Batman has always been one of the most robust, dynamic areas of the character, and since Mike Barr put it on the map of the DCU with Son of the Demon , it hasn’t been done better than in this conclusion. Talia is every part the dark mother of myth, part the Hetzerin inciter, and part jilted lover; as the final confrontation approaches Morrison balances all three and does what great storytellers do: brings a familiar story structure to light in a new way, this telling even more impressive as it’s with the Most Popular Character in the World. Morrison may be a writer that polarizes readers, but his management of this story, its huge number of elements, and the conclusion couldn’t have been more successful.

Burnham’s art is barely passable (the teeth still look like they’re rotting and falling out of people’s heads) but the only real contention I had with this collection was the overlong, two-issue wrap-up of Batman, Incorporated that featured very little substantive content and showcased a sort of string of vignettes of the international Batman community fighting crimes in various strange ways. It sort of emerged at the end of the book as a remainder to the experiment’s equation, and I found myself wondering what it added to the conclusion other than a series of short epilogues to characters that were, at best, supporting functionaries.

BACKLOG PRIORITY
8/10 – Morrison wraps up his work with Batman in grand fashion with a violent, heartbreaking finale that will finally release Batman to the New 52 fully and with more than enough fire to start things like they have been running under the superb direction of Snyder, Capullo, Tomasi, and Gleason.

– Vandal

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Review! The Strain, Ep. 1.12: ‘Last Rites’ [Spoilers]

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We open at the Stoneheart group with Eichorst visits a dying Eldritch Palmer who’s demanding the Master change him into a leader level vamp.  “He’s the Master. He does or he does not

The Crew (Setrakian, Eph, Nora and Fet) return the pawn shop after unsuccessfully attacking the Master.   Setrakian regroups next to his vampiric heart-in-a-glass and we flash back to Young Abraham buying a horse in Albania, 1967.   He returns home to his wife Miriam excited that he’s found the Master.  He rides his new horse to the ruined castle where he believes the Master resides. Lowering himself down a well, he finds a vampiric hidey hole similar to the one he’ll find 37 years later in the NYC subway. Exploring, Setrakian finds a vampire nest! The Master speaks through a vampire telling Setrakian that the sun is setting and he is far from home. Setrakian bolts and finds Eichorst has taken the rope he’d used to lower himself into the well.  Setrakian climbing out of the well only to find his horse disemboweled.  He runs home and arrives to find it empty.  Later, in the darkness, his vampiric wife and kids return and Setrakian is forced to kill them. He “keeps her alive” by taking her bloodworm infected heart with him.  That’s disgusting.  Dutch returns to the pawn shop, surprisingly un-vamped, and she’s brought “a win” with her.  She can hijack the Emergency Alert System to put Eph on every TV and radio station for 30-40 seconds.

Meanwhile, Gus abducts Creem at gunpoint looking for guns and ammo.  They retrieve Creem’s weapons cache from his dockside office where Gus finds out about an interesting “special container” of Creem’s.  Surprise! It houses a bunch of vamps!   Gus gives Creem a gun and though they’re under attack, Creem immediately fires at Gus!   They fight each other and the vamps simultaneously until Gus gets the drop on Creem and knocks him out.  They’re saved from the attack by the Vampire Assassination Squad who kill the attackers, kidnap Gus and leave Creem alone with a vampiric bad-guy pile.

1.12A

“What the hell just happened?”

Fet and Dutch resume their flirtmance as she sets up the broadcast equipment on the roof where we learn that Dutch’s father got her into hacking. Also, she specializes in passionate, destructive relationships.  Fet thinks these are the best kind.  Is there any way this ends well?  Any way at all?

Eph nervously begins his speech.  He’s from the CDC and he warns of the plague, “this Strain” while he shows Redfern’s autopsy pictures, warns that infected loved ones return to hunt their families and advises that sunlight kills them before being cut off.

1.12B

The More You Know, starring Dr. Ephraim Goodweather.

As the broadcast finishes, vampires attack the pawn shop!  Rushing into the apartment, the crew finds Gabriel Bolivar stinging MarielaI knew he’d be back!  Fet and Eph attack Bolivar, trapping him as vamps led by Eichorst break through the windows and doors!  The crew retreats to the basement with Fet carrying Mariela!  They gather their guns, knives, swords as the vamps break into the secret lair.  Nora cries over her mother but somehow summons the strength to kill her before she turns. This is incredible! Setrakian leaves his wife’s infected heart behind as they flee.

At Stoneheart, the Master finally visits Palmer and rewards the old man by turning him.  The episode ends with Palmer dancing in the rain….

CONCLUSION
That was an amazing episode.  They nailed Dutch/Fet’s flirting, Eph’s nervous, over-wordy speech and Setrakian’s loss and resulting passion.  However, the star of the episode was the complexity of Mariela.  The unspoken parallel between last week’s memory disease being treatable and the Strain virus demanding death was simply outstanding and difficult to watch.

What does this week’s parallel between Setrakian’s flashback killing of his wife and Nora’s killing of her mother mean for Eph and Kelly?

BACKLOG PRIORITY
This episode:  10/10 – It’s so rare that TV writers get things right.  This episode got EVERYTHING right.  Brilliant.
The Strain:  10/10 – If you’ve missed it up until now binge watch it before next week’s season finale.

Vrin

Review! Sleepy Hollow, Ep. 2.2: ‘The Hatewatch Continues’ [Spoilers]

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We open with CraneSTILL WEARING HIS CLOTHES FROM 1787 – recalling an obscure wedding ritual in which the Horseman will marry his Katrina.  That would be…bad.  Immediately, we get a “man-out-of-time” joke about “the wedding industry”.  Sigh… Crane believes the ritual’s possible location may be where the Horseman holds Katrina.  He researches it while Abbie goes to meet the new Sherriff

The new Sherriff (Reyes) is tough! She kicked the Cartels around!  She won’t take any crap!  Lets see how that attitude holds up when a headless guy starts swinging an axe at her

Crane uses his photographic memory / instant recall to figure out where Abraham / Horseman has Katrina.  They’re in Dobbs Ferry. I always knew that place was evil!  The pair arrives at the location, confirming the Horseman’s there by making a noise outside his hideout, The Horseman appears, scans the area looking for intruders but doesn’t notice them.  But…but…He doesn’t have eyes so he can’t “see”.  Why doesn’t he notice them in the bushes 10 feet away? Sigh…. Katrina’s there but it’s too dangerous to rescue her now.

Searching for a weapon against the Horseman, they find Benjamin Franklin’s plan to build a Frankenstein’s Monster / Super Soldier called “The Kindred” which “…is the equal of the Horseman of Death.”  The plan requires a body part from the Horseman himself.  It’s always something…Luckily (?), they still have the Horseman’s skull.  From last season. You don’t care. Trust me.  Franklin already had a body, Crane will find it.  It’s 15 minutes into the show and credits are still rolling.  WTF??

Crane and Abbie retrieve the Horseman’s head from a safe deposit box (you don’t care, trust me.).  While they’re there, a bank worker approaches Crane and doesn’t comment on his clothes from 1787???  Seriously?  Then they make another Man-out-of-time joke this time it’s about credit cards. They retrieve the head and leave.

2.2A

“A credit card, you say? Can it be used at Old Navy?”

Jenny meets Sherriff Reyes who arrests her for possessing firearms. But..but..you don’t understand! I can’t fight the Horseman without them!! Crane, Abbie, Reyes and Jenny meet in the jail. Reyes doesn’t like Crane. I think Reyes understands just fine. I’ll bet anything she’s one of Moloch’s servants.

Crane and Abbie use Ben Franklin’s directions to find the Franklin-stein Monster in the caverns, making another “Man out of time joke” about Crane not asking for directions along the way.  That’s 3.  Ugh, I hate this show. They bring Franklin-stein’s Monster to the Horseman’s hideout.

The plan is to raise the monster, use him to lure the Horseman out while Crane sneaks in to save Katrina.  They don’t know about that Moloch gave Henry’s (the Horseman of War) automated armor. Uh-oh.  The Raise Dead spell finishes just as the Horseman arrives and I feel like I’m watching Monday Night Raw’s Main Event! Franklin-stein’s Monster vs. the Headless Horseman! Oh but the Horseman of War jumps in! It’s 2-1 until Abbie shows up, shooting War with an ineffective shotgun. Just like a cop to bring a gun to an undead, immortal warrior fight…  Franklin-stein’s monster impales the Horseman and is about to finish him when he sees Abbie about to be run down by War. The Monster engages War in combat, saving Abbie.

2.2B

“It’s a 2-1 and the Horseman of War is going for a chair! The only thing missing is the Steel Cage!”

Crane rescues Katrina but she won’t go with him.  She thinks she’s better off convincing the Horseman to delay his plans while feeding Crane information rather than flee.  This is an Idiotic plot device to keep them apart. Does she REALLY think this will work?  REALLY? UGH! Crane and Abbie leave Katrina there and Franklin-stein’s monster rides off into the sunset leaving both Horsemen wondering what just happened. Crane and Abbie return to their hideout but find no signs of Franklin-stein’s Monster.

CONCLUSION
This show is so ridiculous that I can hardly watch it without laughing.  Sadly, it’s not trying to be funny.

BACKLOG PRIORITY
2/10:  I’d watch this ahead of HGTV, Lifetime or anything Kardashian related….but that’s about it.

– Vrin