BATMAN 80-PAGE GIANT 2010 (One-Shot)

STORY: Peter Miriani, Paul Tobin, Matthew Manning, Mandy McMurray, John Stanisci, Sean Ryan, Brad Desnoyer.

ART: Szymon Kudranski, Ryan Kelly, Garry Brown, Matt Southworth, Richard & Tanya Horie, Joe Suitor, Lee Ferguson.

Howdy, Bat-maniacs! ‘Tis I, Poptards’ resident Spider-Man scholar and local indie horror icon MASTER FILMMAKER MARK MACKNER with a look at this weeks’ awesome BATMAN 80-PAGE GIANT! Yes, you read right. 80 PAGES!!!! For 6 bucks! But, you don’t care HOW many pages there are. If you’re shelling out 6 bucks for a comic book, it better be DAMNED good, right? RIGHT???? So, IS it any good, then? Hm?

I’m happy to report that YES, it REALLY IS PRETTY DAMNED GOOD!!!! Read it on the bus on the way home from work yesterday, and I enjoyed the hell outta this book. There’s a whopping 7 stories in all, and you think that with SO MANY stories, they’re all gonna be too brief to leave any kind of lasting impression. NOT SO, you cynical twat. There’s some stellar writing talent on display here, and you really gotta hand it to ‘em.

First up is PETER MIRIANI’s “REALITY CHECK”, starring the JOKER. Some TV shrink comes in to evaluate everyone’s favorite Clown Prince of Crime, because the citizens of Gotham are tired of paying to keep the guy alive. If this TV guy can prove Joker’s NOT crazy, they can just execute him and be done with it. Now, this whole setup isn’t the MOST original thing in the world. We’ve seen hotshot psychologists come in and try to apply their fancy booklearnin’ to figure out some of pop culture’s most iconic madmen before. What makes this story a winner, though, is the ENDING. That last panel. I won’t blow it for you, but it’s fucking BRILLIANT. Some of the best 4th wall-breaking I’ve seen in a while. I actually got CHILLS! The limited color palate works for this story, too, and the art is first-rate. Grade: A.

Story #2 is PAUL TOBIN’s “MAY I HAVE THIS DANCER”, starring THE RIDDLER. Some woman has Edward Nygma over a barrel, and is threatening to go public with incriminating dirt that could put the kibosh on his “legitimate” career as a private investigator. So she blackmails him into stealing a highly-guarded statue for her. The fun in this story comes from the joy that Riddler gets from dabbling in crime again. He’s apprehensive at first, stumbles a bit on the rooftop, but once he gets inside, he starts to get back into the groove (“Maybe the old magic is still humming”, he thinks to himself). There’s a fun little twist at the end, and I really dig the way Riddler is written here. You can kinda relate to the guy, in a way. I found myself rooting for him, even though fate seemingly thwarts him at every turn. Grade: A.

There’s a radical shift in tone for the third tale, MATTHEW MANNING’s “EVERY DAY COUNTS”, starring CALENDAR MAN. The last thing you expect is a dark, emotional story featuring Calendar Man, but that’s exactly what you get here. From that heartbreaking 1st page (SO economical, yet so affecting) to the surprisingly touching finale, Matthew Manning takes a B-list villain and, in 10 pages, tugs at your heartstrings, earns your sympathy, and tells a decent story while he’s at it. As a little boy, Julian Day waited 9 days in the freezing cold for his dad to show up, and HE NEVER DID. Whatta deadbeat DOUCHE his dad was. “I was nearly dead when the police finally found me. It was New Year’s Day. And it truly WAS a New Year, I mean. Everything had changed. The world had grown up.” Then there’s the bit in the break room, where Day actually gets SCARY (Shades of his appearance in THE LONG HALLOWEEN). The story is set on a Leap Day, so Calendar Man attempts to jump off the roof and end his sad life. Then Batman shows up and, no, there’s no fight. Something kinda unexpected happens. Great story! Grade: A+.

Again, the next story is COMPLETELY different. MANDY McMURRAY’s “THE CROCODILE HUNTER”, starring KILLER CROC is a straight-up, no frills monster movie story. A reality TV crew goes into Gotham’s sewers to investigate the urban legend of gators/crocs living down there. Needless to say, it doesn’t go so well for them. It’s like a section from the classic B movie ALLIGATOR, with Killer Croc as the titular beast. If you know me, then you know I have a love for all things REPTILIAN, and with all the elements at play here, there’s no way I couldn’t love this. “The Expedition Channel” crew has no idea what they’re getting themselves into, going right into Waylon Jones’ domain. Irresistible! Grade: A.

Following that is JOHN STANISCI’s “THRESHOLD”, starring SCARECROW. Jonathan Crane has Bruce Wayne at his mercy, and uses the opportunity to try to get a glimpse beneath the cowl (figuratively), and see what makes the Batman tick. What I like best about this one is how it highlight’s Crane’s passion for his science, and his need to understand things. “The science of you is so stimulating”, he confesses to Bruce. Some fear toxin is employed, obviously, and nightmarish visions follow. But the main focus is the murder of Bruce’s parents, and the guilt he still carries over it. Crane vows to use this knowledge against Batman the next time he encounters him. The art is hit or miss here. Scarecrow looks terrific, Batman’s fine, but Bruce Wayne looks more like SPIDER-MAN foe HAMMERHEAD in a couple of panels. Grade: B.

Despite the title of Story #6, TWO-FACE (By SEAN RYAN) has nothing to do with Harvey Dent. It’s all about Bruce Wayne/Batman. Two-Face. ‘Cause of the whole “alter ego” thing? Clever, eh? Bruce rubs elbows with socialites at a swanky masquerade party, then ducks out to bust heads as Batman. The art looks like stills from a Japanese anime film, so if you dig that, you’ll dig this. Otherwise, there’s not much else going on here. Not bad, but easily the most disposable story of the bunch, in my opinion. Grade: C.

Which brings us to the grand finale. “WITHIN THE WALLS OF DIS”, by BRAD DESNOYER, takes us inside a birthday party for HUMPTY DUMPTY, the villain introduced in the ARKHAM ASYLUM: LIVING HELL miniseries. Poor fella, only the JOKER bothered to show up (Not even EGGHEAD could make it?), but boy, does HE have a present for the ol’ Humpster. You see, Humpty is obsessed with putting broken things back together. So Joker offers him the challenge of TWO-FACE. Joker has Harvey all tied up, and presents Humpty with an assortment of tools to complete the job.

This is a dynamite set-up that could’ve made for a really awesome stage play. 3 deeply twisted men, all with unique issues, all confined to one room. Joker doesn’t want Harvey to be all human again, he wants him to go full monster. “We both know that there wil be a day when you’ll finish the job yourself”, he tells Dent. “And on that day, you’ll be with me in paradise.” Joker has no intention of killing Dent, or letting Humpty do it. He wants Dent to share in the “joy” that only the Joker can fully understand. And the final exchange between Joker and Humpty is cracking good stuff… Joker tells Humpty that he’s ready to “share the joke” and “fix the world. We leave the scene with the impression that Humpty, too, is about to get fitted for a permanent smile. The bright colors set this one apart from the others, and the art is mostly decent. Excellent story, though. Grade: A.

So, there you have it. If you love the Batman Rogues Gallery as much as I do, then you’ll really get a kick outta this. Go get it today! I’m telling you, you’ll really like it!

And THAT is THE WORD, so sayeth THE MASTER!!!!

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(MASTER FILMMAKER MARK MACKNER is the resident Poptards Spider-Man nut, and the author of SPIDEY’S WEEKLY WEB-UP right here on this site! Also, true to his name, he is the writer/director of the locally made films DAISY DERKINS, DOGSITTER OF THE DAMNED!, EVIL BREW, and THE HALF-LIFE HORROR FROM HELL or: IRRADIATED SATAN ROCKS THE WORLD!)

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