Reviews

The Hole in Things: Batman #701

But Maybe Everything That Dies Someday Comes Back: Writer Grant Morrison returns to Batman R.I.P. in the recent Batman #701 .

Returning to the scene of the crime, writer Grant Morrison humanizes Bruce Wayne's Batman, by depicting his fear.


Batman #701

Publisher: DC
Length: 22 pages
Writer: Grant Morrison
Price: $3.99
Contributors: Tony Daniel (artist)
Publication Date: 2010-09
Amazon
"And I'll take my clothes off, and it will be shameless/ Everybody knows that's how you get famous..."

-- Lily Allen, 'The Fear'

Batman #701 feels, finally, like a changing of the guard, a passing of the torch. And skillfully scripted, this issue shows Bruce's Wayne's Batman (in Batman #701) naked and alone, experiencing fear for perhaps the first time in the character's long publication history.

It has been a Long, Cold Dark for Grant Morrison and Batman since December 2008, since the Conclusion to Batman R.I.P., and since the second to final issue of Final Crisis which saw Superman cradling the ostensible corpse of Bruce Wayne's Batman. With Morrison taking creative lead on both events, there was a freneticism to events. Things happened quickly, and in rapid order one after the other. It wouldn't be unfair to say that there was a general sense of being inundated, overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of what was happening.

But the question for R.I.P. was never a question of the management of creative resources, but whether or not the story itself stood as a classic work in the publication history of the Batman character, or of comics itself. Could R.I.P. be mentioned in the same hushed tones as The Dark Knight Returns or as Daredevil: Born Again, would it?

In "R.I.P.: The Missing Chapter" a two-parter spanning the current issue of Batman and the subsequent, Morrison fills in the gaps between the end of Batman R.I.P. and the beginning of Final Crisis. With this issue, Morrison offers a classic inversion of the character arc traced by Bruce Wayne throughout R.I.P..

Perhaps the most moving part of the earlier storyarc, was Bruce Wayne's monologue that appeared at the very end of R.I.P.. It was a meditative and composed Bruce Wayne that spoke to readers from an omniscient place. "There are only some many ways to kill a man, and I've mastered escaping them all... By the end of my quest for self perfection did I find the Devil waiting, and was that fear in his eyes?". R.I.P. was the resurrection of Batman, a resurrection of spirit.

But what confronts readers in Batman #701, instead of the unbridled victory of Bruce Wayne, is a naked Batman, both in the sense of his having lost his cape and cowl, and psychologically in that he finds himself haunted by the last words of Dr. Simon Hurt. "I am the hole in things. The next time you wear your cape and cowl will be your last."

There is a slow unraveling at work here. This is a portrait of Batman that is finally undone by an ultimate adversary. More so than the Joker, whose genius mind is every bit the equal of Batman's, or the Riddler, or Two-Face, Dr. Hurt is a Batman adversary who was able to use Bruce Wayne's greatest strength, his quest for self-perfection, as a crippling psychological blow. In the hands of Dr. Hurt's manipulations, Batman's strength became his own devastating weak point.

The true subject for R.I.P. emerges then, only long after the fact. And thematically true to Hurt's words, emerges in the space between story moments. R.I.P. was never about the new Batmobile, or the slick gadgets. It was never about the toys or the props or the workaday cunning that Batman has always used to capture street-level criminals.

Even in the most pulp of senses, Batman was an emergent idea. Batman was becoming a story About something. A story about self-perfection, about what the late Harvey Pekar said of comics, "Getting better than they are". Morrison's skill lies in shaping an end to that story. In telling the story of Batman, for the character to properly extricate itself from its pulp and camp roots and properly become a classic, the story of Batman's antithesis must also be told.

In Morrison's hands, for the first time since That Terrible Night In Crime Alley, it feels like Bruce Wayne has finally come of age. It feels like there's no going back home. It feels like no more giant pennies or fake dinosaurs. It feels like a classic.

10

From drunken masters to rumbles in the Bronx, Jackie Chan's career is chock full of goofs and kicks. These ten films capture what makes Chan so magnetic.

Jackie Chan got his first film role way back in 1976, when a rival producer hired him for his obvious action prowess. Now, nearly 40 years later, he is more than a household name. He's a brand, a signature star with an equally recognizable onscreen persona. For many, he was their introduction into the world of Hong Kong cinema. For others, he's the goofy guy speaking broken English to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films.

From his grasp of physical comedy to his fearlessness in the face of certain death (until recently, Chan performed all of his own stunts) he's a one of a kind talent whose taken his abilities in directions both reasonable (charity work, political reform) and ridiculous (have your heard about his singing career?).

Now, Chan is back, bringing the latest installment in the long running Police Story franchise to Western shores (subtitled Lockdown, it's been around since 2013), and with it, a reminder of his multifaceted abilities. He's not just an actor. He's also a stunt coordinator and choreographer, a writer, a director, and most importantly, a ceaseless supporter of his country's cinema. With nearly four decades under his (black) belt, it's time to consider Chan's creative cannon. Below you will find our choices for the ten best pictures Jackie Chan's career, everything from the crazy to the classic. While he stuck to formula most of the time, no one made redundancy seem like original spectacle better than he.

Let's start with an oldie but goodie:

10. Operation Condor (Armour of God 2)

Two years after the final pre-Crystal Skull installment of the Indiana Jones films arrived in theaters, Chan was jumping on the adventurer/explorer bandwagon with this wonderful piece of movie mimicry. At the time, it was one of the most expensive Hong Kong movies ever made ($115 million, which translates to about $15 million American). Taking the character of Asian Hawk and turning him into more of a comedic figure would be the way in which Chan expanded his global reach, realizing that humor could help bring people to his otherwise over the top and carefully choreographed fight films -- and it's obviously worked.

9. Wheels on Meals

They are like the Three Stooges of Hong Kong action comedies, a combination so successful that it's amazing they never caught on around the world. Chan, along with director/writer/fight coordinator/actor Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, all met at the Peking Opera, where they studied martial arts and acrobatics. They then began making movies, including this hilarious romp involving a food truck, a mysterious woman, and lots of physical shtick. While some prefer their other collaborations (Project A, Lucky Stars), this is their most unabashedly silly and fun. Hung remains one of the most underrated directors in all of the genre.

8. Mr. Nice Guy
Sammo Hung is behind the lens again, this time dealing with Chan's genial chef and a missing mob tape. Basically, an investigative journalist films something she shouldn't, the footage gets mixed up with some of our heroes, and a collection of clever cat and mouse chases ensue. Perhaps one of the best sequences in all of Chan's career occurs in a mall, when a bunch of bad guys come calling to interrupt a cooking demonstration. Most fans have never seen the original film. When New Line picked it up for distribution, it made several editorial and creative cuts. A Japanese release contains the only unaltered version of the effort.

7. Who Am I?

Amnesia. An easy comedic concept, right? Well, leave it to our lead and collaborator Benny Chan (no relation) to take this idea and go crazy with it. The title refers to Chan's post-trauma illness, as well as the name given to him by natives who come across his confused persona. Soon, everyone is referring to our hero by the oddball moniker while major league action set pieces fly by. While Chan is clearly capable of dealing with the demands of physical comedy and slapstick, this is one of the rare occasions when the laughs come from character, not just chaos.

6. Rumble in the Bronx

For many, this was the movie that broke Chan into the US mainstream. Sure, before then, he was a favorite of film fans with access to a video store stocking his foreign titles, but this is the effort that got the attention of Joe and Jane Six Pack. Naturally, as they did with almost all his films, New Line reconfigured it for a domestic audience, and found itself with a huge hit on its hands. Chan purists prefer the original cut, including the cast voices sans dubbing. It was thanks to Rumble that Chan would go on to have a lengthy run in Tinseltown, including those annoying Rush Hour films.

Next Page

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image