Amateur Batfan: Vol.14 – Prey

Hello and welcome to the fourteenth installment of Amateur Batfan, a series of blogposts here at Kincrimsonblog where I try something new. Instead of writing exclusively about music like I usually would, I’m dipping my toes into the field of writing about comics. I’m fairly new to comics. You can read about my history with the comics medium in the first entry of the series.

Long story short, I liked comics-related stuff but found the whole idea of being a comics fan too embarrassing, and some of the comics I did try were lacking-in-depth, so I didn’t like comics themselves until my friend Paul opened my mind, multiple times over the years until I finally allowed myself to enjoy them. I had a sort of snobbery to overcome. Its been overcome now though, and I’ve spent most of the last year buying and reading Batman comics, which I will now blog about for your reading pleasure and commenting-inspiration (seriously, I want to know what you think about these comics).

About two weeks ago I bought Prey on a whim online, without much knowledge about it save for that Hugo Strange was the villain. Afterwards, I sent my friend a txt asking if it was any good. The answer was a negative. Woops.

Well, then I looked it up online afterwards and found out that it came packaged with an extra story too, a sequel called Terror. Well, at least it would be value for money. Year Two: Fear The Reaper came packaged with a sequel (Full Circle) and A Death In The Family came packaged with a sequel… or at least packaged with another story (A Lonely Place Of Dying), and it always feels good as a consumer to get the extra equal length, equal quality story as a bonus. If it was bad, at least I wasn’t ripped off.

You know, Hugo Strange wasn’t a villain I’d ever heard of before playing Arkham City. I think I had to look him up on Wikipedia when I played that game to see if he was real or made up for the game. (Real as in “existed in the comics” and not real as in real in the real world). I watched The Animated Series as a kid, and I had Batman Cartoon Maker, but I don’t recall Hugo Strange being in either (he probably was, but I might have not noticed, seeing as how children’s minds are weirdly blurry, like a drunk adult’s).

Since getting into comics properly, I’ve only come across one, maximum two stories with Hugo in it. Those are Batman & The Monster Men and then possibly Knightfall (I don’t remember, he could’ve been one of the ones in the Arkham breakout). Monster Men is one of my favourite Batman books so far, but to be fair it wasn’t really because of Strange himself. I don’t really know how to feel about him as a villain. Certainly he’s not on my “I don’t like them” list, like The Mad Hatter, but neither is he on my “I have a special interest in them” list, like Hush and Mr. Freeze.

Batman

Batman – Prey:

– Writers: Doug Moench
– Art: Paul Gulacy
– Colours: Terry Austin (Prey), Jimmy Palmiotti (Terror)

– Continuity: Post-Crisis, Pre-Flashpoint

– Timeline Position: Year One era (Prey), Early Career (Terror)

– Batman is: Bruce Wayne

– Villains (Prey): Hugo Strange, Night-Scourge
– Villains (Terror): Hugo Strange, Scarecrow

– Allies (Prey): Alfred Pennyworth, James Gordon (Police), Catwoman
– Allies (Terror): Alfred Pennyworth, James Gordon (Police), Catwoman

– Cameos (Terror): The Joker

– Bystanders (Prey): Harvey Dent, Sarah Essen, Barbara Gordon, James Gordon Jr.,

– Bystanders (Terror): Brad, Charleene

– Tone: In some ways its fairly wacky, in some ways its trying to be realistic. There’s plenty of street thuggery, but there’s also outlandish ideas in the mix as well. I feels cold. I’m not sure if that is because of the graffiti and the night-time stuff. (Hmmm… isn’t all Batman full of night-time and graffiti?).

– Art: I really like the art style here. After being given Year One and Man Who Laughs early one, this is sort of the general sort of style I expect from old Batman. Its sort of similar to Venom and the Vengeance Of Bane backstory that was packaged in with my edition of Knightfall. I guess that is sort of the baseline for late-80s to early-90s Batman. I like it.

One fairly major flaw with Prey is that some of the text-boxes are pretty illegible. Its really difficult to read what they say at times.

Terror is interesting, because in some, nay most, of the pages it looks even better than Prey… but then pictures of Dr. Crane and The Scarecrow look very silly and cartoony, and his dancing looks really odd and it throws the whole thing off. I could see people saying it was bad looking because of it.

This whole book is also printed on that old newspaper paper and not the modern glossy stuff. I’m not sure if I’m beginning to like it. Finding it charming. Like when as a Nu Metal fan, it took me a while to get used to the production on Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin albums. I think I’m beginning to like the non-glossy look now.

– My Thoughts: Hugo Strange is quite different in this story than in Monster Men.
Not so much the mad psychiatrist as a straight up cartoon-madman who talks to a mannequin dressed in lingerie. Becuase Mad. I’m not sure which version I prefer. This or Monster Men?… I mean Mad Scientists are cliched too I guess. I think I may prefer the version in Arkham City, but maybe that’s just because it was what I seen first. Or maybe it is better. I don’t know. Maybe I should talk it over with a psychiatrist?

The little touches here and there are rather good, like the disgruntled lawyer, adding a little of that Year One style TV Cop-show depth.

The Night Scourge storyline reminds me quite a lot of The Reaper … y’know… more violent vigilante comes along, Batman disapproves, public look down on vigilante violence including Batman. I guess its also not unlike The Red Hood many years later too. Its a reasonable plot I guess. I really like it when ‘Todd is doing it, so why not here?

I like Jim Gordon in these stories. But then, when do you ever not like Jim Gordon. No Man’s Land is the only example I can ever think of. Heck; Even when he cheats on his wife in Year One he’s likeable.

Another thing that reminds me of the Reaper story is the fact that in Terror, Scarecrow says the word “bullies” way, way too often. Just like how Reaper says “Fear The Reaper” every other sentence.

In a lot of the reviews I’ve read, people who enjoyed Prey didn’t seem to like Terror. I liked both. Both are flawed, neither are awful. I found them both to be pretty entertaining in all honesty, although I’m not sure how much I’d recommend them either. I think a solid 6/10 score would be warranted in a review. It’s the kind of thing you don’t regret buying, but wouldn’t rave about.

Get (Into) What You Paid For: Vol. 3. Day 52 – The Memory Remains

Its day 52 of my third Get (Into) What You Paid For challenge. There’s ten days left. Even though it got extended to be an extra month long, I’ve been adhering to the challenge and haven’t broken it yet thanks to the Christmas gifts I discussed last time, which have taken the urge to buy myself stuff away for a while. I’ve been working through it. I’ve watched Sound City, I’ve read Joey Shithead’s autobiography, I’ve been heavily listening to Porcupine Tree’s Deadwing and Tesseract’s new album. I’ve been playing Arkham Origins. The entertainment part of my life is pretty well serviced.

I’ve also finished the comics that I got for Christmas from my friend Magnum, and am in the mood for more. Which leads us to the part of the article where I discuss what I would buy if I wasn’t on the challenge not to buy things:


I remember when I first planned to buy comics, I wanted to read three stories. Year One, Knightfall and No Man’s Land. This was due to reading the Wikipedia page for The Dark Knight Rises movie.

I got given a lend of Year One by my friend Magnum straight away. I have never gotten around to reading the other two. After having played the three Arkham games, and just recently finishing the campaign mode of Arkham Origins, I really want to get around to reading them now.

There’s two problems with that though… first off, postage and packaging. Second off, Knightfall is three books and No Man’s Land is five books. So; in order to read these two stories, I need to buy eight books, and eight sets of postage and packaging. You add them to your basket and then think…oooh that’s a bit too much for me right now, and then the postage comes on top and it’s like…hmmm, definitely not now.


The same thing happens in a value for money way. I have a weird notion that I want to buy the first three Poison albums, but for under £1 each. Which is possible on amazon at times, but then the postage for three albums is about six quid, and then suddenly its not worth it anymore. I worry that it’ll be completely terrible but I’m kind of fascinated. I think that people will feel the same way about Limp Bizkit in a few years (Nu Metal is very much the Hair Metal of my generation and Emo is the Nu Metal of the next generation after me, and I’m sure there’ll be some Dubstep-infused-Post Hardcore movement starting to take off soon that will be the one for today’s twelve year olds).


Y’know what else I’d like. More Son’s Of Anarchy. I watched the first four seasons which are available on Netflix over the Christmas break and now I want to see the next three seasons. At first I wasn’t actually keen on the show, but I really got into it and now I really want to see more. I can’t decide if I should buy a boxset or wait until its all finished and buy a complete set or wait until more goes up on Netflix. I don’t know if that’s a thing that happens. Is it? Tell me in the comments if that’s likely to occur.

But I’m trying not to buy those things; so instead, I’ll use the things I already have. Money for comics and campy Hair Metal songs would be much better spend on rent, electricity, food and other essentials, right?

With that in mind, here is the section where I discuss the things I listened to that I already owned:

So onto the aforementioned listening-for-distraction stakes; I’ve put on Fair To Midland’s proper debut album (or third album if you count independent releases), the lengthily titled Fables From A Mayfly: What I Tell You Three Times Is True.

I got their follow-up to this, Arrows & Anchors because the internet buzz was that if you liked Rishloo or Coheed & Cambria, then you should check out Fair To Midland. I do like Rishloo and Coheed & Cambria. I like them a lot. So… I checked out Arrows & Anchors and really enjoyed it. It took me a while to get around to picking up this one.

Its less instant than Arrows & Anchors. Its less driving, less powerful. It takes a lot more time to soak in. Its an album you have to give a lot more time to, in order to get the same sort of return back from it. But the return is definitely there to be had.

It feels a lot longer than it is though, at forty-eight minutes it feels like its about an hour and a half in duration. Not because its bad or anything. I guess, in a way, its kind of dense. Not Neurosis dense. But still… there’s a lot to it.

I like this album a lot, but its more of an whole-album-in-one-sitting affair than the other one, it’s the kind of thing where you have to put on the whole record and pay attention to it, rather than knowing the song titles and having a favourite song. Its just as good, but its less fun, if that makes any sense.

I’ve also been re-listening to Kreator’s Pleasure To Kill album a lot recently. Its one of those albums that you always read is absolutely brilliant, but which I’ve sometimes had a bit of a grudge against.

I know that Kreator’s next three albums are brilliant, well-written catchy Thrash records with many parts that sound like Forbidden, Anthrax and Megadeth and not just grim, heavier versions of ‘Chemical Warfare’ by Slayer on repeat. For some reason though, that’s exactly how I find myself thinking about Pleasure To Kill. I think its just a constants stream of d-beats over one buzzy riff and some ’80s death-vocals, with no variety.

I think this may be because the kind of people who told me Sodom’s Obsessed By Cruelty or Sepultura’s Morbid Visions were good, were the same people who recommend this. (Two albums which I find incredibly dull, repetitive and not to my tastes, by the way). Naturally, I’m suspicious of it. It also doesn’t help that the first song (excluding the intro) is the sort of high tempo, frantic pounding sort of thing that confirms this suspicion. Also, its just one of those things were you made your mind up about it once, years ago, and it never occurred to you to challenge the notion until just now.

Recently though, I’ve been listening to it over and over, and noticing parts that don’t sound like Obsessed By Cruelty. Lots and lots of parts. Over half the damn record. It’s a really good, creative Thrash album with lots of tempo changes, breakdowns, Anthraxy parts and all that good stuff that the next three Kreator albums that I don’t write-off all have.

Woops.

Oh well; at least I know now. I paid for it, it’s a good job it turned out to be good. Even if I was late to realize it.

Maybe I’ll go back and listen to Obsessed By Cruelty and find out its just as fresh and fun as Among The Living and that this whole relentless pounding thing was all a bad dream.

You know what else I did? I listened to Dark Side Of The Moon again. It seems like an obvious thing to do, but I can’t actually remember the last time I listened to it. When I first got into Pink Floyd I listened to them so, so, so much, and watched their DVDs so, so much, that it kind of feels like, I don’t need to listen to them again sometimes. Like, I’ve listened to them so much its just imprinted in my brain forever and its redundant to listen to them any more.
Its kind of such an obvious thing to do, that I don’t even think of it anymore. Should I listen to Pink Floyd? – Well, are you alive? – Yes, I am alive – Then of course you should listen to Pink Floyd. In fact, you are probably already listening to Pink Floyd, just pay more attention.

Maybe all the Porcupine Tree and Riverside had been filling my Floydism receptors in my brain and I didn’t realize I was missing any. Anyway; I remembered to listen to them again.

What a good album. You don’t need me to tell you that. Nobody ever has to say it again. Yes; this and Led Zeppelin 4 are good albums. We know.

I enjoyed myself. I must remember to listen to Pink Floyd again. Sure, it may be for the thousandth time, but its always going to be good.

You know everything I just said about Pink Floyd? Well yeah, that again… only for Pantera. This album is so good, so fundamental to what I like about music, has so many of my favourite songs on it, that I absolutely forget to listen to it.

I’m not sure whether this, Master Of Puppets or Reign In Blood would be considered the Dark Side’ of Metal by the public, but for me, its definitely up there. I was going to start listing the things I like about this record, but it ended up being every single one of the things about this record. The only thing at all wrong with this is that ‘By Demons Be Driven’ has one chorus too many. Otherwise this is a flawless, perfect album. Every riff, every solo, every vocal line. The charming production. The performances. The variety. Its all exactly what I want out of music.

How good is the And Justice For All-sounding clean bit at the start of Hollow? How good is the heavy bit of Hollow? How good are Phil’s clean vocals on This Love? How good are Phil’s grunts, growls and screams on Fucking Hostile and Regular People? How good are the drum fills? The guitar solos?

I guess the take home message is, remember to listen to your favourite albums. They are your favourite albums, remember?