Tuesday, December 31, 2019

REVIEW: BATMAN: NIGHTWALKER




Don't call him Batman...

A graphic Novel adaptation of the DC ICONS novel by the same name, BATMAN: NIGHTWALKER takes a younger Bruce Wayne and tosses him into a world of maniacs and criminals long before he is ready to don a cape and cowl. 

43434705. sx318 HOW I RATED IT 
5/5 Though perhaps a bit slower paced than most Batman fans might expect, the new take on this classic character matched with a strong story structure and simple, yet strong visuals make for a unique read that's suitable for casual readers as well as hardcore fans. 

CHARACTERS
The obvious place to start here is with Bruce Wayne, who has just turned 18 when the story begins. His age isn't the only thing that sets him apart from the character most are familiar with though. Aside from the obligatory flashback to his parents' murders and some occasional moping, this a far more charming and optimistic version of Mr. Wayne than I think has ever been done before. He's still smart and resourceful, but there's also this vulnerability to him that might put him more in line with other teenage heroes. In spite of the book's title, he also never adopts the moniker of Batman at all, though the events largely foreshadow that being his destiny. Joining him are his ever-faithful butler, Alfred, a mysterious and beautiful member of the Nightwalker gang named Madeline, the surly Detective Dracon, and some friends from high school, including Harvey Dent. It's a solid cast that nicely compliments the younger version of Bruce and gives readers a mix of both familiar (yet distinct) and brand new faces. 
Image result for batman: nightwalker
SETTING/WORLD
There's probably not a whole ton to say in this category. Aside from the high-school setting, this is pretty much the Gotham you'd expect it to be prior to the likes of the Joker and other super villains running around in it. The Nightwalkers pose the biggest threat to the city which gives the crime in it a far more organized feeling. The only other thing of note is how much time the story spends at Arkham Asylum which also feels a lot more orderly (more like any other prison). 


Image result for batman: nightwalkerPLOT/TONE
Overall, I found myself very much comparing this story to early seasons of SMALLVILLE. You've got a younger version of a classic hero who has yet to embrace their famous identity, a ragtag group of friends, a compellingly human villain, and an adventure that get's to the core of what makes the character great without lavishly laying out all the bells and whistles that they've accumulated over the years. The story really takes Bruce Wayne's infatuation with the criminally insane to another level by representing it in the form of Madeline, who Bruce gradually becomes more and more attracted to. A lot of the tension comes from never really knowing what her true intentions are or where their inadvisable romance will lead them (as well as whether it's real or Bruce is just being played). It's not quite as much fun as the Batman/Catwoman dynamic, but it's definitely an interesting way to explore Bruce's pysche that does have narrative payoff in the final act. Speaking of acts, the story is split into five sections which give it a great sense of structure as things slowly escalate until the finale and wind down into the Epilogue. 


ARTWORK
Image result for batman: nightwalker
While not breathtakingly detailed, the art direction is consistent and fitting to the story. I did find myself wishing for a little more color, especially considering how bright and bold the cover art is, but felt pleased with the strong line-work and use of shadows. Yellow is sometimes used to create a stark sense of contrast when things heat up a bit which I thought was a nice touch. I definitely enjoyed the blueish-grey noir-inspired look and understood some reasons why they probably went in this direction for a graphic novel format. It's also worth noting that this art style lends itself to the slower-burn style of old detective stories. The phrase, "action-packed thrill ride!" is used to market the book, but in actuality the action shots are relatively sparse until the story has built up to it's climax. I didn't find this to be a negative at all, but readers taking the marketing too seriously might find themselves let down.

CONCLUSION 
Whether or not you are a long-time Batman fan, I'd say this is a worthy pick up. It feels fresh and special in it's own ways and left me wishing there were more adventures with this young Bruce Wayne to enjoy. 

Monday, December 2, 2019

REVIEW: THE WELL OF ASCENSION (MISTBORN BOOK 2)


The Well of Ascension (Mistborn, #2)
When "God" has been killed...

After the conclusion of the first entry in this trilogy, Vin and her friends have to figure out how to bring order to a world that they've thrown into chaos.

Note that while there will be no major spoilers for THE WELL OF ASCENSION, elements of THE FINAL EMPIRE's ending will be discussed.

HOW I RATED IT 
4/5 Though things start off pretty slow due to a lot of information about the rules of this world and it's magic systems being rehashed, there's still an engaging tale to be told, especially after the first fourth of the book.

WORLD/SETTING 
The world of MISTBORN is again noteworthy enough to be mentioned first. While a lot of elements that made it great carry over from the first book, what makes it feel so special all over again is how much the landscape has changed now that the Lord Ruler has been killed. It's interesting to see how the world tries to put itself back together now that the man that they called "God" is no more. New kingdoms rise, noblemen grasp at the new opportunities in front of them, the Keepers must find their place now that they no longer have to hide, and the skaa have to navigate their newfound freedoms. There is also a little more revealed about the hidden society of the kandra. While much of what makes the world feel distinct is how it's people have changed, the elements themselves also seem to shift. The nighttime mists that once sheltered Mistborn start to feel like an impending threat as they remain out during the daytime and may even be taking lives. A mysterious thumping also seems to call out to Vin with unknown intent. Overall, it was just a ton of fun to explore a world that is technically the same, yet also so different from the one introduced in THE FINAL EMPIRE.

CHARACTERS

With much of the cast already firmly established, the book takes the chance to explore each in greater depth, including those who had more of a background role before such as Lord Venture and Oreseur. Rounding it out are newcomers like Tidnwyl, a surprisingly belligerent Keeper, and Zane, a dangerous Mistborn working for Lord Venture who hears a voice in his head. We finally get to see more of Elend Venture's true nature as he works to set up a psuedo-democratic form of government. This not only gives him opportunity to develop and something to do, but also unites a lot of the members of Kelsier's crew around a new cause: bring about a new order to a world in chaos - one that's fairer to everyone in it. With Kelsier gone, there is also a lot more room for Vin to grow as she is now the city's sole Mistborn and has even taken on a sort of mystic reputation now that there is a faith formed up around Kelsier called "The Church of the Survivor" that gives special veneration to everyone he worked closely with.

PLOT/TONE 
While the overall theme of the first book was grounded in taking down an oppressive sovereignty, the focus has now shifted to creating something new. Much of the conflict comes about in how different powers have arisen with different ideas about what a new empire looks like - creating a tension and sense of scale that's somehow even loftier than the original adventure. The cumulative effect is that things are even more dire than they feel before as there is so much more at stake. Fortunately, there's still plenty of in-the-moment humor and colorful imagery to brighten things up. 

CONCLUSION 
Though the continual rehashing of old ideas is definitely a sore spot for me, the second entry into this series also moves the world, plot, and characters along in ways that feel worthwhile.