Monday, May 25, 2009

Review: Batman Mad Love and Other Stories

I thought Paul Dini did a decent job on his "Detective Comics" run -- I enjoyed it for what it was, though it suffered in scale compared to Morrison's "Batman" -- but he was definitely responsible for some of the best Batman stories of the 1990s in "Batman: The Animated Series" and the various comic book spin-offs of that project.

This hardcover collection brings all (as far as I know) the Paul Dini/Bruce Timm Batman comics together for a meal-sized romp through Gotham's wacky underworld. And I review the heck out of it.

See what I have to say over at CBR: Batman: Mad Love and Other Stories

And here's a question (or three) for you: Were there any Batman stories set in the regular DCU that were worth reading in the 1990s? Which ones? Why?


Greg said...

Moench and Jones' run on Batman in the Nineties were quite good. Jones is a perfect artist for Batman and Gotham, as he turned it into a weird medieval/horror city with 1930 automobiles, and Moench obliged him by creating a bunch of weird villains for him to fight. Moench occasionally got pedantic, but he also did some experimenting with the form that was kind of neat. Then DC decided to have an earthquake hit the city, and the team broke up. But they're good comics (and, needless to say, not collected in trade).

Of course, if you're not a fan of Moench or Jones, you probably won't like them. They're very "Moench-y" and "Jones-y."

Chad Nevett said...

A little something called "Knightfall," of course.

andy khouri said...

The Batman Adventures comics were easily the best Batman books of the '90s (I know because I read basically all of them), and I already own every story in this hardcover, but having all the Dini/Timm pieces in one place was something I've always wanted. I'd love it if DC reprinted the whole "Batman Adventures" run by Kelly Puckett and Mike Parobeck, but I suspect the market for such a thing is incredibly small. But that's one run I will never part with, no way.

Mad Love was originally a pamphlet, actually -- but with "glossy" pages! It's to my knowledge the only time DC used the so-called "glossy" format. I still have my copy. It was later released in the Prestige Format with a spine and a new cover, which is reprinted in the volume in question.

As for Batman stories in the '90s. I remember liking a lot of them, but I was reading those books between the ages of 12-17, so I wasn't as discriminating as I am now. There were some great arcs in "Legends of the Dark Knight", like Dough Moench & Paul Gulacy's Hugo Strange story "Prey" (which they produced a sequel to in the 00s called "Terror"); the "Venom" arc by Dennis O'Neil and Trevor Von Eden that introduced the drug that would later power Bane; Matt Wagner's "Faces"...

I really liked the "Vengeance of Bane" one-shot that introduced that villain. I haven't reread it in years, but 13-year-old me dug it. Raised in a prison, forced to kill all kinds of scummy people and do a thousand push ups and sit ups every day so he'd be strong enough to tread water for hours so he wouldn't drown when the sea came rushing into his cell every night. And I'm a big Graham Nolan fan so the art is ace.

I don't really get why "Knightfall" is so loathed. The idea of some master criminal letting everyone out of Arkham at once just to wear Batman down and then break him seems like a cool idea to me, and I think it was executed pretty well too. The followup was of course horrible.

One of my favorite Batman stories is actually a couple pages inside a Superman one-shot by Chuck Dixon & Graham Nolan, called "Odyssey". It's about what adult Clark Kent got up to before he decided to become Superman. In one scene that takes place in some kind of Tibet-ish country, you see Clark walking up these carved mountain stairs that seem to stretch on for miles. The stairs go so far that even with his telescopic vision, Clark can only barely make out a figure in the distance coming down in the other direction. Hours later he finally passes the man, and it's this dark haired moody looking dude who Clark says gave him the shivers just by looking at him. Clark makes it to the top where there's a temple and finds all these dead ninjas lying everywhere. A monk runs up to him and says something to the effect of "Did you meet Mr. Smith on your way up? He's from America too."

Chad Nevett said...

Andy, the '90s had a lot of now-loathed stories that weren't that bad... initially. The problem is that the editors and creators didn't seem to know when to stop and ran the damn things into the ground.

Bill Reed said...

All the Alan Grant, Peter Milligan, Norm Breyfogle, and Jim Aparo stuff pre-Knightfall was pretty good. Heck, I didn't even mind Knightfall so much. And the Moench/Jones stuff was good too, and a lot of the Dixon/Nolan stuff...

I liked 90s Bats just fine.

Mark said...

I think 90s Batman is pretty good. The Moench/Jones Batman is probably my favourite Batman run ever; albeit one I haven't read since I was in high school a decade ago, so there may be some rose-coloured glasses there. Something to dig out the next time I visit my parents...

Just be sure to avoid the crossovers. They bugged me back then because as I recall, the last part would usually be in Robin, so the grand finale of this big Batman story would focus on the Boy Wonder. Regardless of how good the setup was, the focus on the adventures of Tim Drake in the last part made them feel more like they were just running out of steam rather than climaxing.

And yet the crossovers are what DC put in TPBs; sigh.

malpractice said...

Peter Milligan and Kieron Dwyer's "Dark Knight, Dark City" (Batman #452-454)

Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle's run on Batman (#455-466, 470-476)

Doug Moench and Kelley Jones' run on Batman had it's moments, more so for the art though.

Chuck Dixon did a lot of good one-and-dones and two parters in Detective with Graham Nolan and Tom Lyle (#640's and on)

Alan Grant's Shadow Of The Bat book was great

Legends Of The Dark Knight had some intresting stuff (Morrison's Gothic, O'Neil's Venom, Wagner's Faces, Alan Grant and Kevin O'Neil's Legends Of The Dark Mite, Bryan Talbot's Mask, JM Dematties and Joe Staton's Going Sane, etc.)

The first 2 Robin mini-series are awesome but i may be biased since those are some of the first comics i ever read and Tim Drake is my fav character.

andy khouri said...

Oh, yeah. I forgot the Robin miniseries, which were really great and when I think of Tim it's the Tim from those books, not the stuff that came later.

Alan Grant & Norm Breyfogle's stuff (especially "The Last Arkham", the first arc of "Shadow of the Bat") was pretty great too. I also really liked the O'Neil/Kitson issues of the Azrael ongoing, which featured cameos by Lady Shiva and Vic Sage.

Also -- I own some original art from this Bruce Timm book! The first page of the Roxy Rocket story, where she's dragging Batman across the skyline!

Bruce Castle said...

90's Batman? Oh, lord. Let me delve into the dark corners of my collection. I haven't read some of these in forever. So, please forgive me.

Batman:Gothic- Early Morrison. Nice Klaus Janson art. Entertaining story that ties into Morrison's recent Batman work, in a way. People wouldn't have been so shocked about the possibility of Satan if they read this.

Batman: Knightfall- It's terribly bloated, and the creative teams are a mixed bag, but I had fun reading this. It's better than Superman's "death." Morrison!

Batman & Dracula: Red Rain- Not nearly as bad as it sounds. Doug Moench and Kelley Jones were the 90's version of Morrison and Kubert. Ok, so it wasn't phenomenal, but this was fun stuff with 90's pretty art.

Batman: Venom- Morrison took this Batman to the extreme with Muller. Still, this was a nice anti-drug story written by Denny O'Neil.

Yeah, that's all I got. Those stories aren't terrible. I like how I mentioned Morrison in every description. I think that's a rule on GeniusboyFiremelon.

Anonymous said...

Did Batman fight that Killer Whale lady in the 90s? My vote is for that.

andy khouri said...

I believe the Killer Whale lady was from the 00s, and was written by... BRIAN K. VAUGHAN.

Mark said...

Orca's a Larry Hama creation; although I suppose BKV may have done something with her.

Timothy Callahan said...

Bruce Castle gets a million bonus points for understanding how to play by my rules! Another Morrison column coming in this week's WWC!

Also -- why is none of that Moench/Jones stuff in print (except for the Vampire bits)? Kelley Jones is indeed awesome.

Bruce Castle said...

"Bruce Castle gets a million bonus points for understanding how to play by my rules! Another Morrison column coming in this week's WWC!"

Woo Hoo! How many Tim Callahan bucks can I get with those million points? And it's the WWC column that I suggested, right? Woo Hoo!

Wow! You're right, Tim. All of the Moench/Jones stuff is out of print. Even that Haunted Gotham trade that just came out a few months ago is unavailable directly from Amazon. I think a lot of it can be found used-like-new though.

Have you read Batman: Gotham After Midnight?

Anonymous said...

Breyfogle and Aparo are, for me, still some of the best all-time artists.

It's not the 90s, technically, but one of my favorite stories is the one-shot that appeared right in Batman right after A Death in the Family (#430?).

I enjoyed a lot of the LotDK arcs, and a few Shadow of the Bat arcs. Moench and Jones were always fun, and Dixon had a good run on Robin.

I didn't mind the Knightfall arc--Knightquest and Knightsend or whatever they were called, however, made me stop buying comics for years.

I thought No Man's Land was a neat idea, and Bruce's tricking Luther into rebuilding Gotham is one of his finest pieces of detective work ever. But like most SNL skits, it should have been shorter. A lot shorter.

Some good one-shots and minis in this era, too.

Anonymous said...

Batman: Black and White.

Bill Reed said...

And when did Rucka and Martinbrough start in on 'Tec? I have no concept of time.

Chad Nevett said...

With issue 742, cover dated March 2000.

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