Monday, September 18, 2006

Batman: Year Two is Terrible and Anyone Who Thinks Otherwise Is Wrong

I re-read Batman:Year Two recently because someone whose opinion I respect told me that he really liked it. I was pretty sure it was as bad as I remembered, and I was right.

It starts out ok. You have Batman doing his thing and Bruce Wayne falling for a girl named Rachel Caspian. Unfortunately for Bruce, she's going to become a nun. Meanwhile, a Gotham City blast-from-the-past villain/vigilante, the Reaper, is making a comeback. Batman has a very exciting fight with him, I'll admit. It ends with Batman getting his ass handed to him.

I think the book takes its first serious wrong turn at the end of chapter one (click to enlarge):

WHAT?! Ridiculous. Why would Bruce even have that gun? And as if that's the only way to avenge his parents. "Bruce, son. Listen to my dying words. Obtain the gun of this random mugger. ..somehow. Save it in a secret compartment beneath a giant, creepy portrait of your mother and I. Then, one day, you must take this gun and bring down a vigilante much like the one you will become, but more extreme and brutal in his methods. His name will be The Reaper. You must kill him with this mugger's gun, Bruce. Only then will your parents be avenged. Avenge us...Bruce..."

And thus ends chapter one. I guess this was supposed to be a huge, exciting, unexpected cliffhanger when this book was still in serial format. Unexpected? Yes. Exciting? Nope. Just stupid.

So who is this Reaper character? He's pretty bad-ass. And he wants you to forget everything Blue Oyster Cult ever taught you:

He loves to say this. He says it so many times I started laughing out loud each time. It made me think of Spinal Tap when they're like "She should be made to smell the glove."


This one is my favourite:

It's almost adorable. He just wants so badly for Batman to fear the Reaper.

Anyway, back to the absurd plot. It gets much worse. Not only does Batman feel the need to tote the Gun That Took Their Lives, but he also feels that to defeat the Reaper, he needs to team up with some criminals. Which leads to him getting paired up with a criminal. You'll never guess who...

No way! Joe Chill?! The very criminal who killed Thomas and Martha Wayne?! What are the odds?! It's just...stupid. It's totally and completely stupid.

But Batman is still pretty much convinced that this is what he's gotta do. He visits his parents' grave and asks an easy question:

No, Batman. The answer is no. You don't have to do that at all. Don't be ridiculous.

But according to Batman, and the writers, he does. So we endure another few chapters of McFarlane art and overly-angsty inner-monologues.

And Batman wearing a delivery man disguise. Hilarious!

And YOU will soon know to sign here to accept your package, Reaper!

Comm. Gordon gets all confused when he sees Batman sort of fighting on the side of the criminals against the Reaper. He's hurt that Batman isn't being his BFF anymore. He takes it like a 14-year-old girl:

Breaks the pipe that Batman gave him as a gift! Awwww. Suck it up, Gordon.

And then there's the stupid romance plotline. Rachel is dedicated to becoming a nun. Right up until she takes in the full heat of Bruce Wayne eating an ice-cream cone in a bomber jacket.


Ugh. I hate that. She was a woman totally dedicated to her faith and her goal of becoming a nun and helping people. Then she pulls a 180. Whatever.

Also, this is the single creepiest panel I have ever seen. Ever:

EW! When did Bruce Wayne = Guy Smiley? Actually, it's worse than that. It's the exaggerated face that I make when I am considering making a banana split. Check it:

Sorry about my lazy photoshop work. But already I have improved the comic ten fold.

Anyway, I think I've made my case. Now I invite anyone to try to defend this book. Good luck!

16 comments:

steffi said...

bwah ha ha!

i am also craving a chocolate shake. batman and i are so much alike.

Anonymous said...

All right, obviously some of us have a lot more tolerance for the turgid melodrama that was Batman in the 1980s, so there's that. Also, the Reaper's repeated use of his catchphrase is absolutely no lazier or sillier than when Jeph Loeb writes somebody like Solomon Grundy only saying "SOLOMON GRUNDY BORN ON A MONDAY!" like, eight times in every panel he's in. Silly, yes, but one of the conventions of the genre. Like how the Phantom Stranger is always finding new ways to introduce himself as "....a STRANGER." Finally, how can you not see the cool in Batman having to team up with the guy who essentially created him to take down a bigger evil? That's classic comic book drama right there! Suspend your disbelief, fer chrissakes! Furthermore, delivery boy Batman? Awesome. Batman has worn countless ridiculous disguises over the years, and I can totally cite precedent (like your own recent post about the phony doctor costume, by way of a for instance).

Bottom line, you like Jeph Loeb's writing. The man who had Bats filling narrative captions with 14-year old schoolboy crap like "I kissed her...." for several issues after smooching Catwoman. If you can be cool with that, that I can make my piece with Bruce Wayne tenting his fingers like a lusty Mr. Burns at the thought of pitching some woo in Rachel Caspian's general direction.

I hope we can still be pals and put all this ugliness behind us. That way, we can focus on our mutual distrust of Marvel Comics.

Mike W. Barr rules,
dave

Anonymous said...

No, it really does suck. It was particularly jarring as the follow-up to Miller/Mazucelli's Year One, with its gritty modernizing of the mythos. Year Two seemed like a throwback to the lame storytelling that Miller blew out of the water with Year One and TDKR.

At the time, it struck me as cowardly, as if DC wanted it both ways: to enjoy the new attention Batman was getting from Miller's work, but use Year Two as a way of saying "Don't be scared! We can still be lame and predictable!" to the old fanbase.

That said, I do remember enjoying Barr's original Batman and the Outsiders run, with solid Aparo art.

-Mike

The Fortress Keeper said...

The plot worked a lot better in the animated "Mask of the Phantasm" movie, and the Joe Chill plot was cooler in the Golden Age.

That said, the Barr-Davis run on Detective Comics was actually pretty dang good.

I blame "Year Two" to blatant, commercial pandering and the fact that most sequels kinda suck.

Anonymous said...

For all the haters, I will direct you to the words of The Dude: "Well, that's just, like, your opinion, man."

-dave

rachelle said...

Dave said:

Bottom line, you like Jeph Loeb's writing. The man who had Bats filling narrative captions with 14-year old schoolboy crap like "I kissed her...." for several issues after smooching Catwoman.

I say:

Dave, I think you are confusing 'crap' with 'something totally adorable.'

You might have a heart of frozen stone, but some of us like our Batman to be fighting crime though a lovestruck haze.

Yellow Rebel said...

I actually read this today. The "fear the reaper" parts were quite funny

Anonymous said...

I thought Gordon smoked cigars? Any-who I think that the story would have been a lot better if Batman got his gun from some dead crook fallen victim to The Reaper. And Joining with Joe Chill was a totally dumb idea. Grouping with criminals in general, would be a little easier to cope with. I also think that A senior citizen is full metal armor and scythes on the ends of his hands is a bit to much of a stretch. Good artwork though. Why are criminals always wearing suits? And I hate it when Batman's cape and cowl are drawn light blue.

Latecomer said...

Ok, first, I gotta admit it seems pretty dumb to post a comment in a 3 year old post. But I just couldn't stand your comments on B:YT. I normally enjoy your insightful and funny posts, but this time someone has to talk some sense into you. I know that you no longer mantain this blog, and that you have a new website. I know you'll probably are not going to answer or even read my answer to your post, but I'm writting this all the same.

You disliked this story because Batman acts out of character. That's totally true... up to a certain point. In the early Finger and Kane years, Batman did packed heat occasionally, you know?. I'll concede that the whole Joe Chill thing do look weird, so we will say Batman does act out of character. But then again, you seem to think there's too much "angsty inner monologue" in the story, so you don't really like Batman when he's too much "in character".

Rachelle, Batman IS angst.

Yeah, I know there's a lot of people who hate this interpretation of the character, but that's just tough. The guy is a 33 year old man who could never get over the murder of his parents. He's obsessed with punishing the monsters that took mommy and daddy away. He created another personality just to deal with this trauma. He has no life, only his self-impossed crusade. Of course he's angsty. If you like your Batman campy, silly, and all-ages friendy, that's totally cool, but that's **your** thing. Don't claim something is terrible just because it's not made to cater your specific fetish

You don't like him when he's happy, anyway. He decides to shrug off some of his usual doom and gloom in order to chase some skirt (he actually looks forward to marrying this girl) and yet, you find that's outrageous and misogynistic and crap. Granted, Todd McFarlane's art sucks, but so what? Batman has looked weird before (check out his latest crossover with Spider-Man)

And then there's the Reaper. You totally shut off your suspension of disbelief and claimed he was hilarious. Gimme a break! That's the bad thing about today's comic books. Readers are now conditioned to expect everything in a light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek tone, or else they get all smart-alecky and snarky. Anyway, The Reaper was cool enough to inspire the creation of The Phantom from Batman: Mask of the Phantom, so there.

Is Batman: Year Two an odd Batman story? Yes. Could they have made better use of Joe Chill? Totally. Is that nun girl a horrible anti-feminist statement? Not at all. OTOH, she's probably a good example of the Women in Refrigerators syndrome. Does it suck? Not really.

And I'm not the only one to think that...

Anonymous said...

damn Tony Daniel for making this canon again

Benjamin said...

You and Dave are the only ones to think that, Latecomer.

It's not a problem with angst. Of course Batman has angst. It's the difference between well-written angst, done in a serious way that seems reasonable, or crazy over-the-top 14 year old girl angst that is, yes, campy and silly. The character can be dark without being ridiculous, if it's written well, but this was clearly not.

I can handle Solomon Grundy repeating a catch phrase way more than I can tolerate a dark vigilante working his own line into nearly every sentence. When you are holding people to the same standards as a zombie barely capable of speech, that's a problem.

The strangest part was that Joe Chill offered no strategic advantage I can think of. He's a random mugger (who was thankfully taken out of the continuity) so any random street thug would have worked just as well. Teaming with him made about as much sense as wearing a delivery disguise with his Batman mask still on.

The bottom line is, they broke the character. In the world of mainstream comics, where every book is handed off to another creative team almost every other month, there need to be certain rules that define a character and cannot be broken. If a character has nothing that defines him, then he is just whatever the current writer wants him to be, in which case he might as well be anyone. The character has no identity of his own. Break the one or two rules a character lives by, and he is nothing. And taking away the identity of a fictional character is the equivalent of killing him.

I hate Jeph Loeb.

Benjamin said...

Oh, and while Batman may have briefly used guns most of a century ago, around the same time he was casually killing people every few pages, they were still building the character at that point at weren't quite sure who he was yet. By the 1980s, of course, Batman's rules had been in place for decades, and became the foundation for his identity.

Viagra said...

Once in a while an awesome character gets the worst of treatments, in this case Year Two is Batman's turn to have a lame comic

Anonymous said...

Ha ha! Even though your post is four years old I can't help but comment. I had never read this story before... I made it to book 3 and I just had to reach out to the interwebs to make sure there was someone else who agreed this was pure crap. I won't be reading any more of this story, but I will be checking in on your blog from time to time.

Anonymous said...

I read Year Two for the first time just now and had to seek out some reviews to confirm it was as god awful as I thought it was. I didn't have to look far.

This story was terrible: Batman would never, ever use a gun. Period. And what about the Reaper, specifically, instantly convinced him that this was necessary? It's not like he hasn't had his ass kicked before.

And the whole justification for him having to team up w/ Joe Chill & the mob in order to track down the Reaper was ludicrous...hell, he finds the guy in the very first place he looks for him right in chapter 1!

Also, Batman tells Gordon to his face that he's about to do something he won't like, but swears to him as a friend that he's still on his side. Next thing you know, all Batman does is tell the cops to back off from his fight, and Gordon's faith in the man is totally shot. I know he's got white hair, but c'mon, is he really so old that he can't remember what Batman--a proven ally, and the closest thing Gordon has to a friend--told him a whole three pages ago?

And yes, Bruce completely changing Rachel's mind about her life's calling 10 minutes into a park stroll is mind-numbingly stupid. Which is exactly what this comic was. Let's all just admit it.

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