Sunday, 3 June 2012


3x13 Space Race Part 2 [season finale]
[Watch it (again) on Demand 5.]

Have I Got News For You
43x07 (25/5/12 edition; extended repeat)
aka The William Shatner One. Absolutely brilliant.

Comics: Night of the Owls

Night of the Owls begins!

And with the publication last Wednesday of Batman Annual #1, the event is now over... but I've saved up the whole thing to read in one go. Well, I say one go -- it's fourteen issues, so it'll probably be two or three goes. And the other advantage to waiting is I can read it in reading order rather than publication order... though as they're mostly standalone stories, and some issues take place across multiple other ones anyway, I doubt it really matters.

So, in reading order...

Batman #8 by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, James Tynion IV & Rafael Albuquerque

Here the night begins with a whole team of Talons attacking Wayne Manor, forcing Bruce and Alfred to retreat into the Batcave where they realise the full extent of the Court's plan. It's primarily an action issue, with some good fights, but it also sets up where the whole event is going.

This is also the first issue of Batman to have a backup strip (co-written by Snyder & Tynion and drawn by Albuquerque) and, unusually, it continues the story immediately where the main one leaves off, plus leads directly into the wider Bat-family's involvement in the event. I hope there's no one who just ignores those extra bits...

Nightwing #8 by Kyle Higgins & Eddy Barrows

They've labelled this a "prelude" to the main event, just because it fell outside the main month when everything as tying in, which is stupid really: Alfred's call from the Batman backup comes very early in the issue (complete with a Night of the Owls timestap), before Nightwing ends up battling a Talon and it all ends on a "to be continued" cliffhanger. I imagine if one only read Nightwing #9 as part of the event, it would feel a tad confusing -- this is as much a part of it as anything else.

And once again, I swear no one actually reads these comics before they put an age rating on them. Despite featuring a graphic beheading (amongst sundry other violence), this retains the series' regular T rating. Perhaps it's a moot point -- comics mostly sell to grown men who should know better these days -- but still, if you're going to bother, do it right.

Batgirl #9 by Gail Simone & Ardian Syaf

I'm behind on Batgirl -- last one I read was #6, so I'm skipping two issues here -- but it's Night of the Owls! And it's a standalone issue as part of that, so it's OK.

The way they pitched Night of the Owls, I was expecting the main story to be contained to Batman (and maybe Nightwing) with all the other titles telling smaller one-on-one stories about Bat-family members which are connected to the main story but not essential. Based on this one issue, that's not entirely the case: not only does this reference several other issues (plenty of footnotes telling you where to go for the full story), but it's based around a pretty significant incident (I imagine -- we'll see), involving not only Batgirl but also Commissioner Gordon, and a turning-point victory for the Court.

While it would be good for comics crossovers generally if not every involved issue was essential to understanding what the hell's going on, I'm glad that not all the books in Night of the Owls will be providing ancillary stories that don't really matter.

Oh, and Batgirl fights a female Talon -- I hope they don't have all the female heroes fighting female Talons, because that's just too coincidental.

Batman and Robin #9 by Peter J. Tomasi, Lee Garbett & Andy Clarke

Or Robin, this issue, as Batman is pretty busy elsewhere (considering he's the sole starring character in three other titles; though I think Batman: The Dark Knight subs in Red Robin this month (which is funny, really, because as the only one without Batman in the actual title, you'd think Detective Comics would be the natural home for a non-Batman story. But hey-ho, that's comics for you.)).

Unlike Batgirl, this is a standalone ancillary tale, but a pretty good one. Another bloody beheading though -- in fact, there's four. Four. And Americans count this as Teen. God.

Batwing #9
by Judd Winick & Marcus To

So we reach the first title in the Night of the Owls that I've never read before (there'll be several more of these before we're done). It's another standalone tale in which 'African Batman' Batwing defends Batman, Inc.'s Lucius Fox from a Talon attack. It also builds on some elements from Batwing's regular run, I think, but in no way that locks out people like me who'll only pick up this issue. It's fine enough as a bit of a scrap, but it's not going to convince me to start buying the book regularly.

It's also nice that in several books characters who would know note how much the Talon moves like Nightwing -- in Batgirl, here, and later in Red Hood.... Neat. As for other recurring themes, there's no beheadings this time (only a threatened one), but yet another repetition of Alfred's call from the end of Batman #8. I suppose I don't blame them, it's a good way of quickly kicking off the plot, but I'll know it by heart at this rate. At least Red Hood and the Outlaws put it at the end of their preceding issue.

And Batwing doesn't fight a black Talon, so that's good (see comment on Batgirl above for why I note this).

Batman #9 by Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo

Back to the main title next for the primary issue of the whole event -- it's even titled Night of the Owls, just to make sure you know. This one covers a fair chunk of the evening, passing around and over the events of several books that will follow (and some that have gone before) -- there's a glaring space left for the events of Detective Comics #9, for instance. (For some reason the reading list puts that four issues away yet, but I'd consider putting it next. Maybe there's a reason I'll discover when I get to it.)

As a whole, the issue by itself doesn't quite have the grandiosity that an event of this scale promises. It's a fight -- a tough one, admittedly, but still just a fight -- followed by a quick trip in the Batmobile to the next plot token. I suppose that's kind of the problem with the Night of the Owls: by making it a Big Event they've made it seem like the climax to the story, but actually that's a couple of issues away yet. Not bad, just not quite the event linchpin one feels it should have been.

The backup strip (again co-written by Snyder & James Tynion IV with art from Rafael Albuquerque) is titled The Fall of the House of Wayne, Part 1 of 3, and tells the story of another Talon attack, this one in the past, on Alfred's father and former servant to the Waynes, Jarvis Pennyworth. It promises some secret to the history of the Wayne family, which some have speculated will be a re-writing of Batman's origin story. We'll see.

Red Hood and the Outlaws #9 by Scott Lobdell & Kenneth Rocafort

Another one I've never read before. More successful than Batwing this issue, in my opinion, though obviously you can't use these to judge the whole series. Some of the cast's banter is more forced than funny, and Rocafort's unusual layouts are a mixed blessing (that they're strange is nice; that this sometimes results in very small panels is more debatable), but it tells a whole story that doesn't feel woefully short, with some major character beats (that Red Hood has previously been resurrected a la the Talons is neatly used).

It also ties in nicely to the rest of the event: there's Mr Freeze, who'll crop up majorly in Batman Annual #1 (which is placed later on the reading list, though there's no clues left here to where it should sit), and the last couple of pages wrap up the story from Batgirl, as well as pointing the way to Birds of Prey (which is next on the reading list). All good stuff. Despite early reservations, this is perhaps my favourite single issue of the event so far.

And that's the halfway point! More tomorrow.

this week on 100 Films

Just one new review was posted to 100 Films in a Year this week...

Priest (2011)
It tries to generate character and tension, but hasn’t spent enough time building them to earn it. There’s lots of awful dialogue, flooded with clich├ęs… as is a lot of the plot, and the stock dystopian future setting, and the overuse of slow-mo. There’s some ideas with promise, but they’re largely shunted aside in favour of something from The Big Book of Standard Character Arcs.
Read more on my new blog or my classic blog.

...but you may also have noticed that it's now June, so here's the May update too.

More next Sunday.