Monday, 20 August 2012

The Killing Joke - A newbie's review

Action Ash
We here at 2 Bad Guys like to encourage new readers as much as possible. So when a young man, by the name of Tim Ricketts, is searching for his first Batman fix, what's a bad guy to do? Action Ash was on the case with 'The Killing Joke' in hand. However, being the black hearted villain that I am, the borrowing of the book came with a price. Tim would have to do a guest review and forever sully his name by having it associated with those of the 2 Bad Guys from an 80s Movie...

After having watched and loved the recent Christopher Nolan film trilogy, as well as countless episodes of The Batman cartoon series when I was younger, I figured it was about time I actually picked up some comics and followed my favourite hero even further. One of my friends recommended The Killing Joke and, luckily, Ash just so happened to have a copy that he kindly offered to lend me. When I was finished with it, he asked if I'd like to write a review of it as not only a first-time Batman reader, but also someone that's never properly read comics before...

If Alan Moore had approached me (you're going to have to use your imagination here) and said "Hey, I'm thinking of writing a Joker origin story, but as flashbacks within another story. What do you think?", my gut reaction would be to reply "No, that's a terrible idea. Just focus purely on an origin story itself". That's what I expected The Killing Joke to be and, whilst I still think it would've been better like that, it's actual layout is brilliant. It's like you're getting two stories for the price of one, but it doesn't feel like you're hopelessly trying to juggle them both at the same time. Thanks to the perfect transitions between the flashbacks and current events, there's no disruption or stop-starting at all. For example, a frame depicting The Joker gazing into a puddle at a carnival cleverly switches to a flashback of him doing the same, but into a river outside a chemical plant. You really have to see this for yourself to appreciate just how well it's done.

The art isn't something to be underestimated either. There's so much detail on every page and Brian Bolland obviously spent a lot of time on it. It all paid off though and the result is just beautiful. It's generally very pleasing to the eye and compliments the story really well too.

The Killing Joke clearly has a very dark element to it and, without giving anything away, The Joker does commit some pretty horrific acts. New readers such as myself will find him more reminiscent of Heath Ledger's amazing portrayal in The Dark Knight than any other, which, in my opinion, is definitely the better kind.

After reading The Killing Joke, it's easy to understand why this issue is so revered and considered by many as one of the best. If, like me, you're new to Batman comics, don't worry about starting with this one and not something like Year One instead. Everyone knows about the Dark Knight's constant battle with The Joker anyway, so it's not going to affect any reading order too much (apart from perhaps one little bit, but I'm not going to ruin the story for you). And if you're into him already but haven't given it a go yet, you're missing out. Either way, it's definitely worth a read.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Another legend gone.

Action Ash 
By now everyone who's even remotely interested in the medium of comics has probably heard the news that Joe Kubert has passed away. I don't think any words I can put together could ever truly express the loss that the industry has suffered. So I'm just going to say this:

Thanks Joe, you were one of the people that elevated comics to the artform they are today. One of the greats. A true legend, artist and creator.


Monday, 6 August 2012

Hawkeye #1

Hawkeye #1
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by David Aja

Action Ash
Well what can I say. I knew it was going to be good because, aside from Brubaker, it had the team responsible for 'Immortal Iron Fist' (which was amazing).

The first issue's story is about Clint getting out of hospital to find out that his landlord has tripled the rent and is evicting the tenants that can't pay. Clint finds out there are dodgy dealings involved and tries to sort the situation out.

Now, I realise that this doesn't exactly sound like riveting stuff, however it's all in the storytelling and the character interactions. That's where the magic lies, and it was superbly executed and flowed nicely. This new street level approach really works for the character and definitely makes him more relatable. In the editorial at the back it is explained that this series was partly inspired by 70's cop shows but with a "modern sheen" and I personally think that is a great direction to go in with a powerless Avenger with a bow. I would totally watch that show but I don't need to worry because it exists in comic form and I'm more than happy with that. A major theme of the book seems to be Clint's awareness that he is just a regular guy of average intelligence amongst godlike beings (the Avengers). The only thing setting him apart from mundane suckers, like you  and I, being his amazing marksmanship. This was handled well and not too in-your-face or whiny, which it could have easily been. In fact, I liked the way Clint seemed content with his lot in life, despite his normality.

The art is fantastic in it's simplicity, David Aja is truly a modern master. It differs in style slightly from his Iron Fist work but has that same nameless quality that makes his art standout. He can make the mundane look cool, which is handy because this series seems to be specialising in making the mundane look cool. Also, he's really good at shadows and silhouettes. That may not sound like a thing but it's definitely a thing.

Interestingly, except for the first page, Hawkeye doesn't use a bow and arrow for the whole issue. Still rocks! In the editorial at the back there was the name of a song and artist as recomended listening for the issue, which I thought was a nice touch and I'm looking forward to future recomended tracks.

Five Russians in trakcsuits getting hit in the neck by playing cards out of Five!

...and my own personal Super Geil!

P.S. For those who've read it: I want to learn that penny trick.