The origin of Matches Malone

Sometimes when criminals have finished peeing their pants while hanging off the balcony as Batman explains his arm’s getting tired, the Dark Knight still doesn’t have all the information he needs to knock out supervillains’ teeth.  And since Batman’s the world’s greatest detective, sometimes that means going all Donnie Brasco in the depths of the Gotham underworld.  His most used, famous, and silliest secret identity is New Jersey’s Matches Malone.  No one suspects a thing.  Luckily, Brian K. Vaughan explains to us how Matches Malone came to be in Batman #589, written by Vaughan and drawn by Scott McDaniel.

Oh, and in bigger news, Matches Malone just got shot.  Not Batman.  The real Matches Malone. That’s right, kids, we’re getting a plot twist in the second paragraph of the article.

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It seems Batman has to frequently explain his own dark secrets to his closest friends and allies. Remember in the arc “Batman: Bruce Wayne — Murderer?” where his Batfamily actually questioned for a moment whether Bruce Wayne could actually kill anyone or not?  It’s because of times like these, where no matter how deep they dig, Batman’s closet pours out a never-ending supply of skeletons.  Here’s another one.  Also, we sometimes forget that he wasn’t always the unbeatable, always-plans-for-everything Batman we know and love.  That took time.

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The most important thing to remember about the above pages is that Batman once wore blackface as the Joker racist-ly remarked.  But if we take into consideration Batman started crimefighting at age 25 (as Frank Miller decided for us), that’s still a tremendously stupid age.  Trust me, I made some horrifically bad decisions when I was 25, and I rarely wear a mask and uppercut criminals.  Luckily, an opportunity came around for our protagonist.

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Let’s not get angry at Batman for obstructing justice or interfering with an investigation — that’s pretty much all he does.  Any evidence collected by Batman is illegal, obtained through illegal methods, can’t be used in a court of law, and given freely to a corrupt police department.  Hopefully, the criminals’ broken jaws and Batman’s threatening growls are enough to keep them on the straight and narrow.  I’d only have to get punched in the face once to end my life of crime, trust me.

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Luckily, Bruce Wayne and Matches Malone have the exact same face and head shape.  We read comic books, where no one knows Nightwing is Dick Grayson because of a tiny black strip across his eyes.  At least now you know the truth, though you should go buy this book (part of a collection called Batman: False Faces) for the rest of this story and a delightful two-issue Wonder Woman vs. Clayface arc.

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Batman and Superman switch powers, Pt. 3

Before we begin, have you seen the cover for Superman/Batman #56?  You should.  It’s the issue we read today.  Plus it includes Superman’s Batman-esque costume he received from Alfred last issue.

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Right?  Isn’t that awesome?  For those who don’t know iconic pictures of American history, artists Rags Morales and Nei Ruffino recreated a super famous boxing photo of Muhammad Ali standing victorious over Sonny Liston back in 1965.  Here’s the original:

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I know, it’s great.  Let’s get to the issue.  Our big finale!  It’s well worth the wait, to which you should go buy the arc as soon as you finish this article because your friends will be impressed and women will be attracted to you.  Probably.  Look, let’s not beat around the bush, you know what’s going to happen: lots of angry punching.  But remember last time when Nightwing exposed a Superman-vulnerability to our Dark Knight of Steel?  Mainly the dark part.  Superman gets his powers from our yellow sun, much like Birdman.  So constant exposure to sunlight keeps Superman at 100%, something to keep in mind coming up.

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Batman brings up a good point.  If Superman can take hits far beyond the ability of a normal man, our secret aggressor no longer has to hold back.  Meaning in the 75 years of Batman history, you just witnessed Batman taking the most powerful, brutal, no-holds-barred punch ever in his entire history courtesy of Superman’s girlfriend (and feminist icon, strong solo character, and everything else associated with the most recognizable female superhero in comics — please don’t flame me).

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Spoiler alert: Batman does it the hard way.  So if the Dark Knight’s hard to beat in his normal squishy form, then the Justice League’s about to have their butt handed to them.  As he mentions and as we know, Batman fights dirty and you’d have to be crazy to go up against him in a fair fight (like most of his rogues gallery).  And for reference, yes, this is the mentally unstable Batman they’re facing — the one we’ve seen in the previous two parts consumed and pushed over the edge by the major superpower surge.  Though it doesn’t make these next few pages any less satisfying.

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So let’s talk about this scene.  Let’s admire that the Justice League straight up stops the fight because they know three pages in they won’t be able to win.  But those crazy voices?  Besides being a scene I’m going to skip?  It’s one of the most effective ways to stop Superman: mess with his mind.  Use illusions, fight emotionally instead of physically, use truth bombs, etc.  Superman may be a Man of Steel, but he has a paper-thin heart.  We’ll skip Batman crying about his parents, but indulge in Batman’s final maniacal monologue (though on a small level, it is correct) before Clark Kent and Zatanna play their hand.

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Don’t despair, you know this is what Batman really wanted.  We saw how the venom made Batman into a similar monster.  He simply doesn’t cope well with superpowers no matter how much he claims otherwise, much like me and a bottle of wine.  Look, I adore Batman and we all knew the status quo would force the two’s switch to reverse itself.  But as readers, writers, and Batman himself have pointed out constantly, the only real difference between him and his rogues gallery is that Batman’s obsession is justice as opposed to anything evil.  And honestly, it’s my favorite thing about him.  After batarangs.

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Bittersweet endings still qualify as happy endings.


Batman and Superman switch powers, Pt. 2

Here’s the problem with a Superman-powered Batman: he’s never going to stop.  Ever.  Until his dying breath in a post-apocalyptic kryptonite meteor shower, Batman’ll never pause or take a break from heat vision-ing crime.  Y’see, the only reason he heads back to the Batcave during dawn is to do normal human stuff like collapse into his bed or suture up his wounds or do that whole feeding himself nutrients thing.  But no more.  Superman always had a stable alter-ego in Clark Kent, but not Bruce Wayne — and you can see his obsessions fully manifest as the arc progresses:

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I looked up the word unequivocal: leaving no doubt, unambiguous.  Part of Batman’s war on crime relies on evil-doers knowing Batman’s out there and ready to strike.  With heat vision, the bad guys can’t crop up their failings on bad luck when the Batman symbol gets seared into their car.  Also, take a moment to appreciate Batman perching/brooding on the Eiffel Tower.

Oh yeah, and his friends are worried, but like all great teenage logic, no one could ever understand Batman, right?  Gosh, just leave him alone and let him text his friends in peace.

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It’s the “with great power comes great responsibility” cliche, except if Spider-Man never stopped swinging around New York City from the day he got bit by the spider until his heart gives out on the way to the Spider-Nursing Home.  I know what you’re thinking: someone’s going to have to talk some sense into Batman, and his friends are very poor at talking sense.  The Justice League punches first, negotiates second.  But if his buddies can’t convince Batman that an equal balance of work and life prevents him from going crazy with power/duty/freeze breath, then it’ll have to be his most trusted ally. His dearest comrade’ll make one of the stupidest decisions I’ve ever seen him make, and that includes the pixie boots.

All this after Batman beats up Catwoman, though.  We need to see his instability before the escrima sticks become justified.

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Batman’s (very) minor weakening will be explained in a few pages.  We all agree Nightwing made a terrible choice.  Maybe he thinks Batman’ll take it easy on him or might even refuse to fight him at all — though to be fair, Nightwing did just see Batman wipe out Catwoman, and those two have seen each other’s private parts.  So if you’ve ever wanted to see a very human Dick Grayson fight an angry Superman-powered Bruce Wayne, your wish has been granted.  Spoiler alert: it goes as well and lasts about as long as you think.

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For our big finale on Friday, Batman takes on his toughest opponent yet (excluding a healthy relationship with a woman).  Hint: everybody.  He fights everybody.


Azrael vs. Bane: round two, Pt. 2

As we left off last time, Bane filled up Azrael with a injection full of venom, the insanely addictive strength-increasing serum.  And now Azrael has to go through some major withdrawal.  Note: we ended on a ship crash, but I’m jumping ahead a good dozen pages.  What you’ll miss: Azrael dramatically climbs a cliff wall, loses again to Bane and Bane’s soldiers, gets captured by Bane, becomes trapped in a cage, tricks Bane, and jumps over the cliff.  It’s all exciting stuff you’re not going to see.  Anyway, we pick up after that:

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Know that in the first page, it’s made clear that Azrael pooped his costume.  And while I’m no expert on addiction, my only vices being attention and adoration from others, I imagine a hot tropical island in South America with no modern amenities or anything to ease the trauma probably isn’t the best place to beat the drug.  Also, and far more importantly, those list of venom withdrawal symptoms?  That’s Batman talking to Alfred about that, which means Batman also pooped his suit.  Don’t ever forget that.

But superheroes are our betters, so of course Azrael’ll rise triumphant.  We expect nothing less.

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After losing two physical confrontations against Bane in the past four issues, it’s time for our hero to adjust his tactics.  I’m mean, it’ll still involve punching Bane a whole bunch, but now we get an added dose of psychology thrown into a fight where fiery golem claw hands aren’t enough to overcome Bane’s sheer power.  Spoiler alert: it involves lying.

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Azrael’s acting isn’t exactly Shakespearean quality, but why wouldn’t his gambit work the way it did? Bane’s weakness stems from his former reliance on venom, and without it, he’s physically weaker than when he fought Azrael’s Mecha-Batman suit.  Though it should be known that Bane still massively overpowers Azrael.  Any character in comic books who goes in combat without wearing a shirt is someone who’s pretty confident he (or she?) will splatter your butt across whatever tropical island/city block/space station/Microverse landscape you’re fighting in.

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That one line “He rose up like some primordial sea-beast” gets me every time.  I’m not addicted to venom, but I would definitely poop my costume if I saw Bane rise up unharmed from a suicide cliff drop.  But our adventure’s not over.  Y’see, the next issue takes place during the Batman event Cataclysm.  A devastating earthquake turns Gotham City into the broken post-apocalyptic wasteland you see during No Man’s Land.  And since superheroes always having such impeccable timing, Azrael delivers Bane to the Gotham police at the exact moment the earthquake hits.

But first, how about some self-doubting?  It’s more of a Marvel thing, but it’s nice to see DC try to worm its way into Azrael’s decision-making process.

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Bane’s point, while not exceptional or totally convincing, does bring up some great points.  Batman did invite Azrael into crime-fighting before immediately treating him like crap.  To be fair to Batman, Azrael refusing to give back the Batman mantle and then pummeling Bruce Wayne probably warranted Batman’s condescending future treatment of Azrael, but it’s that simple idea of power versus responsibility.  Because let’s face it, Batman’s not happy.  He devotes his crazy wealth and power to a city and cause that’s largely ungrateful and unchanging.  But if Azrael uses his own crazy power to work with Bane, he could probably live that wonderful life of pleasure and fun that his father (and Batman) deny him.  I’m just saying, remember when Nightwing took over for Batman a few years ago? We were excited for reasons that included stuff like, oh, this Batman’ll actually smile once in a while.

Then Cataclysm hits and Azrael chases Bane down.

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It’s nice for Azrael to get some therapy in before he and Bane kick each other.  By the way, for all of Azrael’s efforts, Bane escapes Blackgate Prison pretty soon after this to form his own gang during No Man’s Land.  Next time, we’ll jump back to some more venom coverage.  Want to see Batman with a full beard?  Of course you do.


Batman & Azrael: KnightsEnd

Batman’s replacement Azrael eventually goes crazy.  To be fair, Azrael (real name Jean-Paul Valley) was always a bit crazy, but allow him to build a mecha-Batman suit fueled by delusions and hallucinations, and the fall happens far quicker than Bruce Wayne expected.  Remember the DC event One Year Later when Batman, Nightwing, and Robin traveled the world for a year and he left Two-Face in charge of Gotham City?  As brilliant as Wayne is, his decision-making skills occasionally need some adjusting.  In Detective Comics #677, written by Chuck Dixon and drawn by Graham Nolan, as well as Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #63, written by Denny O’Neil and drawn by Barry Kitson, our original Batman attempts to correct his mistake of allowing Azrael to inherit his title.

Azrael’s father religiously brainwashed him in the assassin cult of St. Dumas, so his insanity isn’t really his fault.  Still, a crazy Batman is a bad Batman.

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A short list of what Azrael needs to answer for: he let a murderer fall to his death, he let a hostage die, he almost strangled Robin to death, he stopped working with the police, he blocked off Wayne Manor, and other general brutality.  Except that all that has happened lies solely on Wayne’s shoulders — Batman should never have picked him in the first place.  So, in quite possibly one of the calmest Batman moments, he confronts his Gundam successor, talking to Azrael much like one would an unruly preschooler.

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Like all good superheroes, words fail as fists must be raised.  And as insane as Azrael acts, no one has more experience dealing with insane people as Batman.  I mean, Arkham Asylum exists solely to house the entirety of his rogues gallery.  Though it should be noted that Batman also solves crazy people problems less with therapy and kind words and more with punches and batarangs.

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Batman doesn’t hate Azrael, he just feels bad for him.  Less growling and more pity.  I know discussing “power levels” of fictional characters amounts to arguing about whose imaginary friend is stronger, but Batman holds a firm advantage in speed.  And if Nightwing teaches you anything, speed usually matters more than power.  That and how can the traditional, disciplined Batman possibly lose to the ultimate ’90s version of himself?  Seriously, stop drawing Azrael’s feet and give him a mullet and we’ve just created the perfect ’90s superhero caricature.  He has spikes on his legs.  How can he drive the Batmobile with spikes on his legs?

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I like the dual meaning behind Azrael keeping his mask on.  Obviously, he uses it to see in the dark, but it’s a beautiful representation of Azrael’s desperate identity.  When we ask whether Batman needs the existence of Bruce Wayne, here’s the perfect example of the emotional drain-circling that comes from an identity wrapped solely in fighting crime as a giant bat.

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Religious symbolism!  I’m saying Batman is DC’s Jesus.  But this Aryan madman’s quest has just begun.  His solo series branching out of this event lasts for a 100 issues.  I’m always a sucker for redemption stories, and Batman lets Jean-Paul Valley find his own peace.  Just far away from Batman.

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On that note Batman leaves Gotham City again, letting Dick Grayson take over the Batman for the first time. If you wonder why Wayne chose Azrael instead of Nightwing to fill his costume’s shoes, so is Nightwing.  You can read that awkward conversation in a previous article.  Next time, more Azrael!


Azrael & Bane: Knightfall

With Batman out of action (broken back and whatnot), Bruce Wayne assigned Jean-Paul Valley, the vigilante Azrael, as the new Batman.  It was the only reasonable choice.  Robin’s 5’5″ and in high school.  Nightwing — as Wayne believes — wants to be his own man and not in the shadow of Batman.  Batgirl and Huntress are girls and thus can’t accept that last half of that Batman title.  So it’s all Azrael, the religious crazy person that they doesn’t know that well.  We’ll definitely explore his story in a later article.

Azrael loses his first fight against Bane badly.  Embarrassingly badly and in front of many Gotham citizens.  So for round two, he creates his own Batman suit, that Gundam Batman you’ll see below in Batman #500, written by Doug Moench and drawn by Jim Aparo & Terry Austin.  We’ll finally be able to sleep at night as we find out if the meaner robot Batman can stand up to the might that brought down a tired and sick Bruce Wayne.

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Only Bane would enter the battlefield by dangerously jumping through an electrified billboard.  Azrael’s strategy involves stepping into the dark side — the same plan that worked so well for Anakin Skywalker.  If only Azrael can dirty himself down to Bane’s level, then the fight becomes the fair fistfight it needs to be.  Robin doesn’t approve, Bruce Wayne doesn’t approve, Nightwing doesn’t approve, but one can’t argue with three batarangs impaled in Bane’s forearm.

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Let’s be fair: Bane’s way physically stronger than Azrael even without the venom.  But Bane also doesn’t have projectiles, claws, armor, or the support of the entire Gotham police department. Look, I’ve played Injustice: Gods Among Us.  Bane’s tough, but I can’t win with him if Batman’s on the other side of screen spamming batarangs.  So ever the master strategist, Bane uses his genius tactical mind to formulate a new plan: run really fast.

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Train fight!  As far as battles inside transportation goes, train definitely tops the list.  Notice that both combatants enter the fight the same way: unnecessarily bursting through materials not supposed to be burst through.  If Azrael wants to stoop down to Bane’s level, then he has no choice but for property damage.

I imagine by this point you may be confused as to Bane’s cowardice.  Allow me to attempt to justify Bane’s fear.  Up first, he definitely didn’t plan for Mecha-Batman.  All the new sharp stuff throws wrenches in whatever idea Bane thinks the fight will go.  Also, no more venom.  He even fought super weak Bruce Wayne pumped full of venom, a man who didn’t stand a chance against Bane even if the big guy took a nap halfway through the fight.  And most importantly, the story demands Bane loses. Azrael begins his official reign as Batman as the event Knightquest starts and we can’t have Bane ruling the underworld if that’s to happen.  Plus, it always feels good when supervillains get what’s coming to them.  Like this:

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The future of Batman begins here.  Will Azrael fully dump himself permanently in Bane’s cesspool of murder and violence?  No, of course not.  That’s a silly question.  But for a city (and Robin) that just witnessed a wild brutality not representative of the old Dark Knight, they must question his superheroic motivations.  Can the city feel safe with Bionic Batman patrolling its streets?  Most importantly, note Bane’s acknowledgement of this new Caped Crusader.

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Next time, Azrael no longer earns the right to the costume!


Robin’s adoption and the uncle situation

Tim Drake came from a rare origin story in which both his parents were alive when he took over the Robin identity.  And then they weren’t.  So newly orphaned, the teenager can’t just be swinging across the rooftops before returning to his box under the bridge overpass in the morning.  Apparently, things like “laws” prevent minors from doing whatever they please however they want and whenever they want to do it.  But Batman has an idea.  A very heart-felt idea.  Let’s explore Tim Drake’s future/living situation today in the following issues:
Robin #134, written by Bill Willingham and drawn by Damion Scott
Robin #136, written by Willingham and drawn by Pop Mhan
Robin #138, written by Willingham and drawn by Scott
Robin #139, written by Willingham and drawn by Scott McDaniel
Batman #654, written by James Robinson and Don Kramer

First up, Batman’s plan (and part of today’s article title).

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I’m no expert on adoptions, and I’m sure the state wouldn’t be pleased by a man in a bat costume raising Drake, but random men can only claim kids as their own as long as no other possible options exist (I assume).  I mean, surely Robin can take care of himself — he’s had a solo series for since the early ’90s after all, but when it comes to laws Batman’ll break (like trespassing, assault, illegal wiretapping, etc.), he follows adoption procedures to the letter.

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Well, no more Tim Wayne for Tim Drake.  Bring the world adventuring uncle back home and Tim’ll get a proper house and other problems he’ll have to lie about to his new family member.  Look, it’s not as if this is anything new to poor Robin.  All he wants is the freedom to not attend school, patrol by himself, and do all those great adult things Batman, Nightwing, Batgirl, and the others get to do.  Even Batman would make Robin sit through classes and complete his homework before giving permission to jump kick bad guys.  Such is the life of a 15 (or 16?) year-old kid.

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How sweet, right?  Edward Drake looks like a cool dude, like that uncle who lets you smoke a cigarette once in a while as long as you bring your female friends around for him casually leer at. Maybe he won’t mind his nephew fighting crime.  Maybe he’ll use his doctoring skills to aid Robin. Maybe he leaves loving hand-written notes in Robin’s lunch bag every morning.  Or maybe he’s a great big fraud.  Probably the last one.

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It’s not bad that Robin lied to Batman.  It’s bad that he lied to the person with the most powerful, comprehensive computer in the entire world along with the single greatest problem-solving mind hidden behind any mask in the DC universe.  Batman makes up for his lack of super strength by being superhuman at everything else.  Like being super scary.

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Drake even gets a half-smile from Batman, the largest grin possible from his brooding mentor.  As for dear Uncle Eddie, he appears in one more scene after this and then never again.  He doesn’t die or anything — a girl shows up at the apartment, Robin asks for some alone time, Eddie leaves, and we never see or hear from him again.  Much like the parents of many other superheroes.  It’s simply an unsolved plot line dangling eternally in the bowels of comic book history.

A year later (in both comic book time and real life time), Batman asks Drake once more if he’d do the honor of being adopted.  It goes exactly as you expect: heart-warmingly.

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Aquaman’s Eel problem

About four years ago, I remember watching Saturday Night Live discuss one of President Obama’s triumphant debates over the Republicans.  I forgot the context and the reason, but Seth Meyers made this joke:

Come on, Republicans … you thought you could take down Barack Obama by debating him?  You realize debates are why he’s President, right?  Seriously, all you guys do is complain how Obama is “all talk,” and then you invite him to a forum that is literally all talk. That’s like saying, “Let’s see how tough Aquaman is when we get him in the water.”

Y’see, each of the DC superheroes has their strengths and weaknesses — some physical, other personality — but those downsides are what make the characters so interesting.  And Aquaman?  So maybe he’s not so great to plop down in the Middle East, but may the DC gods and goddesses help whoever decides to challenge him in the ocean.  The supervillain Eel learns this lesson the hard way today in Aquaman #21-22, volume six, written by Will Pfeifer and drawn by Patrick Gleason.

So currently, Aquaman patrols the city known as Sub Diego.  It’s part of San Diego when an earthquake submerged half of it and all of a sudden its inhabitants could breathe in water and no longer breathe air on the surface.  You can read an old article I wrote on it for more details.  But much like all other great DC cities, the mobsters, criminals, and supervillains still make their home there — even if they now live underwater.  Time for Aquaman to show these baddies who they’re dealing with (spoiler alert: Aquaman).

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I’m not saying that a killer whale makes for a better sidekick than, say, Robin, but Hollywood did make four Free Willy movies.  So let’s consider Sub Diego simply a wetter Gotham City.  They even have their very own criminal mastermind, out to take control of the city’s underworld (though isn’t everything sort of considered the underworld now?).  Meet Eel (real name Mortimer Coolidge), a telekinetic so insignificant that he only appears in six issues total.  Three of those are alternative reality Flashpoint issues, so they don’t even count towards canon.  But despite his lousy future, he’s still full of delightful supervillainy ambition.

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When Aquaman has to face the new head of Sub Diego’s mafia — an experience he probably didn’t have to face often in Atlantis — who does he turn to?  Who in the DC universe has fought mobsters more times than Superman’s saved Lois?  And it’s a bunch, because she falls out of a lot of buildings. Aquaman turns to the only other humorless member of the Justice League who, unlike Aquaman, cannot ride his sidekick.

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Can we take a moment and appreciate the cool upwards angle of the Batcave in that first picture?  But let’s talk about Batman’s comment (and ignore him handing Aquaman a deus ex machina) before we continue.  I kinda do think Batman enjoys the “chase,” but that’s only because his entire self revolves around fighting bad guys.  Batman can’t exist in a world without crime, and his claim does apply to most of the Justice League as well.  Hal Jordan lives for the “chase.”  So does Wonder Woman. Green Arrow needs it.  Definitely Nightwing.  Probably not Martian Manhunter, but he has other major issues to deal with.  It’s hard to be a superhero and not enjoy the adrenaline rush that goes with it. Either way, time for Eel to realize the folly of his ways.  Water plus Aquaman equals this:

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Eel’s telekinesis only works around water, but when the local superhero bursts through walls like a fishy Kool-Aid man, what chance does Eel possible have?  On that note, our dear Aquaman makes the mistake all good superheroes do once in a while: he underestimates his opponent.  Mainly because what type of fight would this be if it’s over in a single page?

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Round two, my friends.  Despite Coolidge’s second wind, his opponent wildly outclasses him.  Since I already shamelessly plugged another one of my articles earlier, have you read the article I wrote on mismatched superhero battles?  I should tell you that my self-esteem relies entirely on my blog’s hit count.  Oh yeah, and Aquaman pounds on Eel.

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Look, all these other pages still likely hasn’t convinced you of Aquaman’s water superiority.  It’s just a normal fistfight at this point.  But y’see, Aquaman can’t lose.  Like he had the fight wrapped up from the moment Eel dropped into the water way back in Sub Diego’s origins.  We’re in Aquaman’s house, and his house is disgusting.

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I hope Batman’s taking notes.


Robin’s school shooting, Pt. 1

As a teenager, Robin’s going to come across the normal teenage dramas as well as occasionally batarang-ing Two Face or Penguin or whoever.  Even Tim’s mentor can’t help with high school issues as unfortunately, Batman spent his own youth training as a ninja in the Himalayans.  Vengeance takes decades of prep, y’know.  So poor Robin has to get thrown into the inferno of improvised problem solving today in Robin #25-26, written by Chuck Dixon and drawn by Mike Wieringo, and Robin #46, written by Dixon and drawn by Cully Hammer.

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Get ready for another after-school special with bo staff beatings, because hopefully nerdy ’90s teenagers would pay attention to stuff Robin does.  Though it seems a bit patronizing in 2014, I’m okay with this type of story.  While kids can’t totally relate to school shootings (well, maybe now but not so much in 1996), they do understand impossible choices and it’s nice to have their fictional hero attempt to tackle that type of problem.  I might just be overly simplistic, but I think we can all agree that in summary, being a teenager totally sucks.

Tim enlists his dad to go talk to Karl’s dad.  The conversation goes exactly as you expect.

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Have you noticed how perfectly comic book characters’ hair grays?  It only reaches the temple and never expands into the precious moneymaker at the top (see Hal Jordan, Mr. Fantastic, Alan Scott, etc.).  Just a touch of distinguish-ness to show old age and a full, beautiful heap of hair above.  Do comic book characters only ever have a thick, gorgeous head of hair or none at all?  What about the balding superheroes and villains?

Oh yeah, and Karl’s rebuttal to Tim the next day also goes exactly as you expect.

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You don’t have to be Martian Manhunter to figure out what’s coming next.  That and the title of today’s article gives it away.  Robin has no problem snitching on his classmate — it’s to save his life, after all. Did Karl really think Tim wasn’t going to say anything?  The dude spends his nights handing over tied up bad guys to the police by the dozens.  He has battled every psychopath, monster, and criminal mastermind that Gotham City can throw at him — and won every time.  Robin ain’t scared of bullies. Though like all dramatic and sad superhero moments, our hero’s just a moment too late.

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Why is this moment so upsetting compared to the rest of Robin’s career?  Batman’s partner has seen hordes of dudes gunned down, women and children horribly killed, and the absolute core of Gotham’s evil.  So why one dumb bully from his school?  Simple:

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Robin and Tim Drake are separate entities, and they have to be for a teenage boy to handle the stress and sights of being a vigilante crime fighter.  Kids worry themselves sick over algebra tests, much less dodging machine gun fire.  Robin keeps all that potential PTSD locked away behind that mask — something Batman doesn’t do.  For a superhero who we all claim as a non-powered human, there’s very few human characteristics about Batman.  Now Nightwing, he’s more of the perfect balance.  I know it’s a little brief today but it’s a good stopping point for the second half on Wednesday (mainly because 30 images in one article gets draining) and Robin’s attempted revenge.  Spoiler alert: it’s sad.

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Kitty Pryde’s rebound boyfriend Iceman

I like Kitty Pryde, not just because she’s one of the few superheroes we’ve seen grow up over the decades (like DC’s super popular Nightwing), but because her moral integrity remains immensely strong — even when it only serves to ruin her day.  So many X-Men waver that good/evil line (like the two current faction leaders Cyclops and Wolverine).  And while the Marvel universe allows their superheroes to explore their dark sides before returning back to the light, we’ve never had that problem with dear Kitty.  Which causes a horrific mess of her personal life.  We’ll explore the full Kitty/Iceman relationship in the following issues:
Wolverine and the X-Men #14, written by Jason Aaron and drawn by Jorge Molina
Wolverine and the X-Men #15, written by Aaron and drawn by Molina
Wolverine and the X-Men #24, written by Aaron and drawn by David Lopez
Wolverine and the X-Men #32, written by Aaron and drawn by Nick Bradshaw
Wolverine and the X-Men #34, written by Aaron and drawn by Bradshaw
Wolverine and the X-Men #37, written by Aaron and drawn by Giuseppe Camuncoli
X-Men: Battle of the Atom #2, written by Aaron and drawn by Camuncoli & Esad Ribic

But before Kitty can become madly infatuated with Iceman, she has to take care of one loose end: her current boyfriend Colossus.  For some background, we start smack in the middle of the Marvel event Avengers vs. X-Men.  Currently, the Phoenix Force has inhabited five X-Men (including Colossus).  It gives them godlike powers, but y’know how godlike powers end up — evil.  You can click the second picture below for a larger version.

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You can probably guess what Kitty wants to discuss.  Y’see, she’s concerned the Phoenix power is being misused or brainwashing or whatever it did that last few times it made Jean Grey a supervillain. But c’mon, those who fear the Phoenix Force simply don’t understand its capabilities and don’t trust its users — like those pesky Avengers.  And Kitty.

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Way to confirm all her suspicions, Colossus.  Tantrums and anger are associated with bad guys.  The good guys get depression and guilt.  Except for Wolverine, who gets all four.  Now in a normal fight, Kitty could probably take Colossus as super strength and durability can’t really protect from Kitty’s phasing thingie.  But now he’s a god and Kitty’s wearing her nicest dress; still can’t fault her for trying.

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Lighting your girlfriend on fire usually signals a looming breakup.  Colossus, purged of the Phoenix power near the end of the event, nowadays returns to fighting the good fight.  But Kitty won’t date him anymore — she prefers men who haven’t threatened to destroy her school with all-consuming god fire.

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She’s amazing, isn’t she?  We assume if Kitty joined the X-Men as a preteen, she’s probably in her early to mid-twenties in current day.  And my goodness has maturity and responsibility smashed her in her tired soul.  School Headmaster Wolverine spends every other issue slashing ninjas, leaving Kitty in charge of the entire place.  But if you’re a fan of strong, powerful women (and I don’t mean in the physical manner) then feel free to root for Professor Pryde.  And honestly, she needs someone lighthearted and silly after that whole Colossus debacle.

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Ready for their first date (nine issues later)?  It combines all the soap opera of the X-Men with the horrible awkwardness of actual dating in your 20s.  I mean, if we all had superpowers and ran a school for mutants and saved the world multiple times and had both previously dated supervillains.

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But Kitty’s smart.  And she makes a suggestion that saves both of them from explaining to a hungover Wolverine why they came back wafting an uncomfortable aura combo of friendzone and blatant lies. I’m kidding, of course.  Wolverine doesn’t care how their date goes.

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I cut Iceman’s romantic final line (it was attached to Wolverine/Storm flirting), but I’ll write it here.
Kitty: “We’re X-Men.  We don’t get to grow up and live happily ever after.”
Iceman: “Maybe not … But at least we’re growing up.”
Cue the kissing.  I know he’s a fictional character and all, but even I felt a slight attraction to him after that killer comeback.  And so the two date for about thirteen issues.  Like all superhero couples, they bond mainly through missions, because banter in between jump kicks makes for fun dialogue.  Oh, and if you’re not familiar with Iceman’s expanded power set, this should fill in all the blanks.

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And the beauty of Iceman’s ice mech:

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But then came the X-Men crossover event Battle of the Atom.  If you’re not familiar, Beast brought the five original X-Men from the past to convince misguided present-day Cyclops of his wrongdoing.  But then they became stuck in the present and joined Wolverine’s school under Kitty’s mentoring.  Like all good comic books, this caused the future X-Men to transport to the present and attempted to force the original X-Men to go back to the past.  It’s complicated.  Even the battle scenes:

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I’ll do my best to explain some back story before Kitty yells at everyone and we end the article. Wolverine’s group (including Iceman) attempted to send the original X-Men back without the original X-Men’s consent — Kitty sees that as abandoning them, not protecting them, etc.  Cyclops’ group jumped at the chance to allow these five to do whatever they darn-tootin’ want to do.  Kitty agrees with Cyclops.  And that effectively ends Kitty and Iceman’s relationship.

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Iceman and Kitty’ll both land on their dating feet soon enough.  They gave it a good run, but you can’t hope to outrun the dreaded status quo.  Though no matter how emasculating Kitty’s final words were, she’ll always be better than Mystique.