Thursday, September 30, 2010

Audio Dramatization Review: Dead White

This audio dramatization is based on the novel by John Shirley. The CDs run approximately 6 hours long. The story basically follows Batman's attempt to defeat a major terrorist attack by a gang of neo-Nazis.

Positives: Generally solid voice acting and a pretty interesting subplot involving a Gotham City detective and his son attempting to reconnect. Excellent climax and solid drama throughout.

Negatives: One-dimensional main villain. Some annoying parts where the neo-Nazis are referred to as neo-conservatives. Some of the voice-acting is spotty, particularly at the beginning. The narrative passages get tedious in places.

Specific ratings:

Story: I'd give this one an 8 out of 10. The main plot is a little silly and unrealistic, but the subplot involving the detective and his teen-aged son is well-realized and entertaining. There is some gratuitous swearing and a few scenes where sexual activity is at least initiated, although it doesn't get explicit.

Voice-acting: Again, an 8 out of 10. Most of the acting is solid, with only a few embarrassing moments. The character of Skeeve, who is important in the very beginning, comes off as a stereotypical inner-city black but we learn later that he's actually a white supremacist from the south. He does not carry that off. On the other hand most of the other characters manage their roles capably.

Sound effects: 6 out of 10. Nothing special here.

Batman characterization: 8 out of 10. He seems a bit too technology-dependent, with almost no detective work. On the other hand, we do get inside Batman's head thanks to the narration and it mostly works well. I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of Batman trying to get "in the pocket" (essentially what is usually termed "in the zone" in sports).

Villain characterization: 4 out of 10. The main villain, White Eyes or Big White, is a cardboard cutout with no redeeming features to illustrate how he became a leader. Shirley appears to have constructed a liberal's bogeyman, as not only is he a racist skinhead, but he also talks about defeating the anti-Christ and how he was raised to be a "neocon".

The audio dramatization did manage to entertain and hold my attention despite the significant negatives. Overall I'd give it a 7 out of 10; worth a listen but far from perfect.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Modern Classic: Batman #347

This May, 1982 issue starts out with two young men discussing business:

The more reluctant partner talks about the time Batman foiled a prison break, taking out the escaped cons one by one:

When that fails to dissuade his buddy, the young man talks about morality. Won't someone be hurt by the bank robbery?

Well, for instance, there was a series of arson attacks going on in that very neighborhood some years back. Since the buildings being burned down were abandoned and insured, nobody much cared, and since the arsonist used some stereotypical radical language, he even attracted converts to the cause:

Batman tries to track down those responsible, despite the general apathy. Because the firemen had used up too much water fighting the arson in the abandoned buildings, there was no water pressure when it came time to fight a small fire in an apartment where an elderly couple lived, resulting in the death of the husband. In a rage, Batman grabs the radical leader and drags him into a burning building. The building collapses, and the crowd is undecided as to what to do when the old woman speaks up:

So the crowd rescues the pair and Batman even ends up giving mouth-to-mouth to save the arsonist. And the final page is so good I'm posting it here complete:

Simply wonderful.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Detective #28

Batman's second story was not featured on the cover, although there was a notice that he appeared "This Month and Every Month". As the story begins, the newspapers are full of headlines about the local jewel robberies. Bruce, imitating Commissioner Gordon's voice, calls a stool pigeon and puts pressure on him to give up the gang responsible for the thefts. Gimpy tells him that Frenchy Blake's mob's involved and gives him the location of that night's heist.

Batman fights it out with the crooks on a rooftop and casually propels one hood to his death:

The other criminal is captured by the police, who assume that Batman (who escapes) was behind the robberies.

Any thought that perhaps Batman's assailant survived the fall is dispelled a few pages later:

Note in particular the appearance of the mastermind; the monocle and the Van Dyke beard. Batman would face several criminals matching that description in the next year or so; Kane didn't put a lot of variety in his artwork.

Obviously a confession obtained this way wouldn't stand up in court:

After another bit of fisticuffs, Batman drops Frenchy off at the police station with the confession.

Comments: Last of the very short Batman stories; with the next issue Batman would be expanded to 10 pages. The character is still only roughly formed.