#4: Winston's War - Michael Dobbs
A fictionalised account of Churchill's rise to power and his interactions with Guy Burgess. It's a fairly interesting "inspired by real events" tale, but the historical inaccuracies annoyed me too much for me to really enjoy this. The Churchill isn't as annoyingly inaccurate as Ian McNeice's in Victory of the Daleks, but there are still bits of the character that rankle. When a person is so well known from his own words and proper historical document, discrepancies tend to stick out like a sore thumb, and such is the case with Dobbs' characterisation of Churchill. An example being his political allegiances; any
party was a flag of convenience for Churchill. He was as ideologically attached to the Liberals and the national liberals as he was to the Tories, and to pretend he was a true blue Tory is wishful thinking from this most Conservative of writers.
Another irritation was his portrayal of Chamberlain as a bumbling fool. This might accord with popular belief, but it doesn't accord with fact. Chamberlain was a tactician who bought us time, not an idiot who sold us down the river, and to pretend otherwise is an injustice.
If you're not bothered by this sort of thing, though, it's a fairly enjoyable and accessible pageturner. Just don't read it expecting the truth. 5/10#5: Batman: Harley and Ivy - Paul Dini & Judd Winick (writers), Bruce Timm (artist and cover artist), Joe Chiodo, Shane Glines, Ronnie del Carmen and lots of other people (artists)
This is a compilation book of three distinct Harley and Ivy stories. The first follows the formula of the Harley and Ivy episode of Batman the Animated Series, albeit with a different plot. The second is my favourite; a short story which is entirely based on the friendship and interaction between the two titular characters. The third is different in artistic style, and suffers slightly from that in my view.
Poison Ivy is hands-down my favourite female batvillain. She's an ecowarrior and a feminist, and as such I find her somewhat of an identification character. I share her frustration with Harley and her inability to escape her abusive relationship with the Joker, and I love her confidence and don't-give-a-damn attitude.
Harley is more problematic for me. Her senseless unrequited love for the Joker annoys me no end. She's an intelligent woman, and she ought to have woken up by now. And yet, this aspect of her character is sadly believable also... That said, the way she and Ivy play off each other is beautiful. They are two women who, within the obvious constraints of appearing in the DC universe, are entirely believable characters, and not just ciphers.
I really enjoyed this book, despite my reservations about Joe Chiodo's art in the third story. Overall it gets 8/10
.Batman: Battle for the Cowl/Gotham Gazette - Tony S Daniel (writer, penciller, some covers), Fabian Nicieza (writer), Dustin Nguyen (artist and cover artist), Guillem March, Chris Cross, Jamie McKelvie, Alex Konat and Mark McKenna (artists), Sandu Florea (inker), Ian Hannin, Guy Major and Guillem March (colourists), Jared K Fletcher and Steve Wands (letterers)
Here I am catching up with the important stuff that's happened in the Batverse since The Long Halloween (more of which later)
, which was when I was last really embedded in Batfandom. I knew vaguely what had gone on in this series, but I wanted to actually read it.
Things I found out that I didn't know before include Jason Todd is still alive, Vicki Vale has returned to Gotham, and Dick Grayson/Nightwing definitely
dresses to the left.
Toby S Daniel's art in Battle for the Cowl is stunning. One can quibble about his incredibly unrealistic portrayal of the human form, but the balance and composition of the pages is glorious. The writing, though, is more patchy. IMHO story and characters should drive each other, and there are several places in this where it feels like characters are there pointlessly, not adding to or being added to by the plot.
Gotham Gazette, on the other hand, has beautiful but less strikingly comic-book artwork, and the writing is very good indeed. Having fallen in love with Steph Brown while reading Batgirl Rising, it was lovely to see her concentrated on in such a sensitive fashion. Leslie Thompkins is another character I am fond of, and she gets some nice writing here too, cementing her as a strong moral compass in the series. And dear old Harvey Bullock gets to be his usual pain in the butt self.
One character I thought was underused in both these stories was Barbara Gordon - but that might be because I have been reading Birds of Prey too, and she's AWESOME in that (props to Gail Simone)
. I am now slightly worried that I am morphing into innerbrat
The second part of this I find much preferable to the first part, but overall I'd recommend it. 7/10Batman: The Long Halloween - Jeph Loeb (writer), Tim Sale (artist), Gregory Wright (colourist), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letterers)
This originally came out in 1996/1997, and was the last batseries I got involved with before going to university. When I was at uni I totally failed to keep up with US comics (although I kept 2000AD on)
, and have only been a dabbler since. It's thus a milestone story for me, even if it isn't for Batman. I kept it going even when I abandoned all other Bats because of Two-Face. I've always felt him to be interesting, and he's generally just used as a goon in a lot of batsuff. The Animated Series used him well, and I wanted to see more of that kind of storyline.
What The Long Halloween is, is a fleshing out and retelling of the Two-Face origins story, set around and just after the events of Batman: Year One. Everyone
knows that Harvey Dent became Two-Face when Boss Maroni threw acid in his face in the courtroom, but that tends to be the extent of popular knowledge. This is a thirteen issue examination of who he was before, his relationships with Batman and Jim Gordon, and his relationship with his wife, Gilda. It's beautifully and immersively written, and the art is stunning. The final twist is a sideswipe you do not see coming, but it makes perfect sense. HArvey is a person, and his motivations are believable, and so are all the other characters. Alfred is great in this too, even though his part is small.
The other thing this story does, is detail the development of Gotham, from an
American city with it's share of Mafioso to a land of crazy supervillains. Jim Gordon, watching this happen to the city he loves, is particularly moving in this regard.
I really, really love this story. It's male-centric, and the female characters are only there because they are WAGs, but I can forgive it that for the beauty and scope of the story. The one other quibble I have is with the lettering: sometimes the lettering is hard to make out against the background colours. Those two issues in conjunction are enough for me to rob it of the perfect ten, so it gets 9/10