Batman Versus Predator (1991)

Batman Versus Predator

Batman Versus Predator, in case the title doesn’t give it away, is bad. It’s real bad. It could be worse, sure, but it’s real bad.

It doesn’t open terribly—sure, the Kubert Brothers art is pretty bland from go, but the subject matter is at least sort of interesting (compared to where it goes later). And writer Dave Gibbons (who doesn’t just overwrite the comic, he badly overwrites it) has some style for the opening. He juxtaposes the Predator attacking some old guy and his dog with the Gotham City championship boxing match. The former isn't important (other than it's a little weird the Predator is attacking a junkyard watchman), but the latter turns out to be the whole comic. See, the Predator isn’t initially interested in hunting Batman or even (armed) criminals or (armed) cops. It’s out to take out the championship boxers.

Because they’re champions. Says so on the news. The Predator watches a lot of news in Batman Versus Predator and repeats sound bytes to make dialogue. Because Gibbons is incapable of writing an action sequence without a bunch of stupid recycled sound bytes the Predator has picked up somewhere. At one point, it seems like the comic would be at least somewhat better without their constant addition. But then, once the Kuberts never get any better—they can’t make the Predator versus the criminals interesting, they can’t even make Batman versus the Predator interesting, though it’d probably be hard to do given the big showdown is in the woods surrounding Wayne Manor. But there are times when it doesn’t seem like Batman Versus Predator isn’t going to be a complete waste of time.

Sadly, all of them are in the first issue (of three). And by the end of the first issue, it seems kind of unlikely the book is ever going to turn around.

Most of the comic, overall, is about the crooked businessmen and gangsters who run Gotham (and the boxers) getting wiped out by the Predator. It kills them because… it knows they’re swinging dick criminals and it came to town to hunt some white collar looking criminals. Then it takes on Batman and puts him down for the count—there’s this terribly ineffective device where Gibbons and the Kuberts have a single panel showing Batman getting home all cut up at the bottom of pages while above the main action with the cops or crooks or whatever plays out.

Because Jim Gordon’s got a big part. Not sure why he doesn’t try to take out the Predator himself as the Kuberts draw him just as buff as Batman, which is considerable because they’re Batman is super buff. So big and buff it’s like, obviously you need some meaty muscle guy like Ben Affleck for that part.

But you wouldn’t want to see Batman Versus Predator: The Movie with Batfleck or anyone else, because the only thing the comic succeeds at showing is how bad it would be. Even though it’s about two “characters”—Batman arguably has less personality than the sound byte spouting Predator here—who are known for their wonderful toys, there’s not much competition.

You’d think after fighting aliens since the fifties or whenever they first showed up in a Batman comic, Bats would have some better ideas than he comes up with here. Nope. There are a couple times in action scenes where it’s like… why did that work? The Predator is scared of cars?

The big action finale has Batman in special armor, which looks like the suit from the end of Batman Forever, though I don’t think the Kuberts got a thank you, and then he has a sword at some point. Because armor and swords and whatever.

Batman Versus Predator is pretty dumb, even for a comic called Batman Versus Predator. I’ll bet if you bought this comic back in 1990 thinking it would resemble Watchmen in some way because of Gibbons, you were pissed as all hell. Though, as someone who bought it back in the day—at age twelve—I recall being shameless about it.

I shouldn’t have been shameless. I should’ve acutely felt the shame.

Superman and Batman: World’s Funnest (November 2000)

Superman and Batman: World's Funnest

Dave Gibbons does the most art on World’s Funnest. It’s not exactly the standard Dave Gibbons art, either, it’s Dave Gibbons doing Silver Age and it’s awesome. What writer Evan Dorkin taps into with World’s Funnest is the experience of being a Batman and Superman fan in the late eighties and early nineties; it’s practically a companion piece for those Greatest [insert DC character here] Stories Ever Told. The hardcover ones with beautiful reprints of the old stories, which weren’t cool in any modern sense, but you had to do the work to appreciate them because you want to be a good fan. You want to understand. And Dorkin’s trip through the DC multiverse is all about understanding, both the multiverse and the way it presents to the reader. Even though the first eighteen or so pages are all set in the Silver Age, Dorkin’s observations about the tropes make it all very modern. It never feels wrong to the characters, but it’s rather self-aware, from injured villains to Robin’s constant need for approval; Dorkin could’ve stopped World’s Funnest with a Silver Age riff and done something awesome, but then he keeps going.

Mxy and Bat-Mite battle for Infinite Earths; art by Dave Gibbons.
Mxy and Bat-Mite battle for Infinite Earths; art by Dave Gibbons.

I didn’t know what to expect from World’s Funnest. I missed it when it first came out, but I definitely wasn’t expecting to open it to discover an impressive list of creators. Unfortunately, it’s an alphabetical list of creators. So I sorted them out in order of their contributions.

First up after Gibbons is Mike Allred, who also comes first alphabetically, so he’s a terrible example. Oh, wait, I probably need to at least acknowledge the premise of the comic, which I wasn’t familiar with either. Mr. Mxyzptlk and Bat-Mite battle across the DC multiverse and its various time periods and dimensions within universes. Dorkin doesn’t get into the science, which is both awesome and surprising. I can’t believe they got away with some of this stuff.

Allred handles the Phantom Zone, but an Earth–2 Phantom Zone? Like pre-Crisis Earth–2 Phantom Zone. Or maybe just a Silver Age Phantom Zone. Again, Dorkin’s not interested in the locations for narrative purposes, just for homage. It’s a violent, pseudo-cynical homage, but it’s never mean-spirited. World’s Funnest is enamored with the comics it comments on. With the possible exception of some nineties references.

Mxy isn't sure what to make of the Marvel Family, art by Jaime Hernandez.
Mxy isn’t sure what to make of the Marvel Family, art by Jaime Hernandez.

Then Sheldon Moldoff handles the actual Earth-Two visit, Stuart Immomen and Joe Giella on Earth-Three. Frank Cho’s got some lovely art for the Quality Comics universe. Jaime Hernandez does Captain Marvel’s universe, which is a hilarious visit for the battling imps. Dorkin never directly contrasts the different universes, but lining them up and inspecting each does reveal a lot of amusing details. Scott Shaw gets Captain Carrot, Stephen DeStefano does some fumetti, then Jim Woodring gets to do the trip to the Fifth Dimension.

Now, it’s hard to imagine not being familiar with Mr. Mxyzptlk and Bat-Mite as a DC Comics reader, but it gets more possible with each passing year and each rebranding and each reboot. Dorkin approaches the story with just the right mix of nostalgia and commentary; there isn’t time for introducing the various worlds though–which might actually make World’s Funnest a great primer for DC Comics history. There’s a familiarity curve to the comic book. A daunting one.

Not even Darkseid can keep a straight face during WORLD'S FUNNEST; art by David Mazzucchelli!
Not even Darkseid can keep a straight face during WORLD’S FUNNEST; art by David Mazzucchelli!

After Woodring, David Mazzucchelli does an amazing Jack Kirby trip to Apokolips. I didn’t think it was Mazzucchelli when I was reading it. I’m even more impressed now and I was rather impressed while reading it. Dorkin and Mazzucchelli match Kirby’s enthusiasm and outlandishness without letting it go absurd. Darkseid’s one of the best supporting players in the comic.

Jay Stephens does “Super Friends,” Glen Murakami and Bruce Timm do a storyboard for the animated series, then along comes Frank Miller to do a Dark Knight bit. It’s freaking amazing. And really good art from Frank too; I think the good art from Frank Miller in 2000 was what surprised me the most about it. Doug Mahnke and Norm Rapmund do the nineties flashback, which is the closest the comic gets towards being nasty about its reference points. Then Phil Jimenez does an awesome Crisis section, very Perez. Ty Templeton does a few pages of general universe transporting before the Alex Ross finale. It’s only a few pages, a few panels, but it’s awesome to see what a “Batman: The TV Show” Bat-Mite would’ve looked like (albeit in superior lighting to the show).

It's Bat-Mite by Alex Ross. Really.
It’s Bat-Mite by Alex Ross. Really.

And it’s funny. All of it’s really funny and really smart about how it’s being funny. Dorkin doesn’t have one joke not connect, even the handful I might not have fully appreciated. It’s a lovely tribute to a lot of comics and a lot of comic creators. I’m embarrassed not to have read it until now.

CREDITS

Last Imp Standing!; writer, Evan Dorkin; artists, Dave Gibbons, Mike Allred, Sheldon Moldoff, Frank Cho, Jaime Hernandez, Scott Shaw, Stephen DeStefano, Jim Woodring, David Mazzucchelli, Jay Stephens, Frank Miller, Phil Jimenez, Ty Templeton and Alex Ross; pencillers, Stuart Immomen, Glen Murakami and Doug Mahnke; inkers, Joe Giella, Bruce Timm and Norm Rapmund; colorist, Chris Chuckry and Mazzucchelli; letterer, Tom Orzechowski; editor, Joey Cavalieri; publisher, DC Comics.

Judge Dredd’s Crime File 5 (December 1985)

Judge Dredd's Crime File #5

Some real good art from Dave Gibbons closes this issue of Crime File. His story is the least in terms of writing–Wagner’s script is rushed–but it’s very cool to see young Gibbons on Dredd. Unlike the rest of the issue, which has good (though awkwardly not great) art from Barry Mitchell, Gibbons even keeps the Ian Gibson chin for Dredd. It’s just not so cartoonish.

Mitchell has some great panel composition and layouts, but his judge figures seems out of place. They seem a little too small, a little too static for the panels, which are rather detailed otherwise. Still, he knows how to tell a story and it works.

There are four stories in this Crime File. The first might be the best–irresponsible kids bouncing around the city in giant plastic pinballs–though the showdown between Dredd and a psychic insurance criminal is pretty cool in the second. Mitchell does better with Mega-City One from the rooftops than the streets (it feels too reserved).

It’s a solid issue. Very readable, some good Dredd punchlines, even if Wagner and Grant (who co-writes on one of the stories) aren’t trying very hard.

CREDITS

Writers, Alan Grant and John Wagner; artists, Dave Gibbons and Barry Mitchell; colorist, Janet Landau; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd 9 (July 1984)

Judge Dredd #9

It’s something of a lackluster issue.

The opening resolves the Cursed Earth storyline, but it’s the final chapter and probably should’ve somehow been fit in with the rest of the Cursed Earth issues. Especially since it’s extremely anticlimactic, though Mills does attend the character relationships he’s developed.

Then Wagner takes over with Dredd on trial, followed by Dredd as a fugitive, followed by Dredd redeemed, followed by Dredd versus a conspiracy. The compiled nature of the series comes through way too much–every few pages it stops and starts, sometimes going in a wildly different direction.

And Wagner’s characterization of Dredd, who’s shouting off one-liners, seems too forced. Wagner’s characterizations of the rest of the cast is similar–he’s rushing. There are some occasional high points, like Dredd’s showdown with a robot duplicate, but otherwise it’s a problematic outing. The constant Dredd in danger cliffhangers get tiresome really fast.

B- 

CREDITS

Writers, Pat Mills and John Wagner; pencillers, Brian Bolland, Brendan McCarthy and Mike McMahon; inkers, Bolland, Dave Gibbons, Brett Ewins and McMahon; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd 8 (June 1984)

Judge Dredd #8

The resolution to the Las Vegas cliffhanger is a little lame. Dredd just happens to get there in time to challenge the sitting judge and there just happens to be a good resistance movement in place to help out. The whole subplot–the mob being the corrupt judges of Vegas–is weak anyway.

But then Mills does a long flashback of Tweak (the alien) and his full story. It’s a nice diversion, leading to some nice character moments in the present action, as well as some affecting ones in the flashback. It’d be the highlight of the issue, if not for the finale.

There’s a contrived battle scene in Death Valley. Dredd and company versus war robots. The setup stinks and the actual sequence is fantastic. Great pacing and writing also make up for the art getting too confused.

Although the open is rough, the issue turns out quite well.

B 

CREDITS

Writers, John Wagner and Pat Mills; pencillers, Mike McMahon and Brian Bolland; inkers, McMahon, Dave Gibbons and Bolland; colorist, John Burns; letterers, John Aldrich, Gibbons and Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

2000 AD 24 (6 August 1977)

144914

A not bad issue.

Invasion doesn’t have the best script, but Carlos Pino’s art is really good. Finley-Day’s definitely not writing for the deep thinker–the evil Volgs have these expensive missiles for hitting one target (one human target) a piece. Dumb but fine.

Heroes is mean-spirited but at least about the Aeroball game.

Belardinelli does an awful job on M.A.C.H. 1. Real bad. Roy Preston’s script is more adventure oriented than espionage, which does work better.

Then there’s Kevin O’Neill doing a story about a kid meeting Tharg, the editor of 2000 A.D., and being a little brainwashed into buying more comics. Cool art. The story’s not the point, but the writing’s fine too.

Cruddy art from Arancio on Shako ruins it. The strange Ratched-like nurse flops, but the writers are at least trying.

And then Dredd has a decent case; Malcolm Shaw’s writing is good.

CREDITS

Invasion, Hadrian’s Wall; writer, Gerry Finley-Day; artist, Carlos Pino; letterer, Jack Potter. Harlem Heroes, Part Twenty-four; writer, Tom Tully; artist and letterer, Dave Gibbons. M.A.C.H. 1, King Karat; writer, Roy Preston; artist, Massimo Belardinelli; letterer, Tony Jacob. Tharg the Mighty, Tharg and the Intruder; writer and artist, Kevin O’Neill; letterer, Peter Knight. Shako, Part Five; writers, Pat Mills and John Wagner; artist, Arancio; letterer, Jack Potter. Judge Dredd, The Wreath Murders; writer, Malcolm Shaw; artist, Mike McMahon; letterer, John Aldrich. Editor, Kelvin Gosnell; publisher, IPC.

2000 AD 23 (30 July 1977)

144913

It’s an inoffensively weak issue. Finley-Day handles both Invasion and Dredd and doesn’t do well with either of them. Invasion has some really complex layouts from Dorey, which are cool, but the story’s pretty lame. Dredd is oddly not particularly busy–McMahon spends more time on little details than city designs–and Finley-Day doesn’t have a good punchline.

Harlem Heroes actually talks about the game again and has a very strange ending with the Brain player being viciously cruel. Rather racist installment too. Guess no one worried about offending Japanese readers.

Shako’s idiotic. It should be a lot more fun too, but Arancio doesn’t go for realism so instead it comes off silly.

The Dan Dare wraps up; Moore sets Dare against the Mekon for a very boring finish. Belardinelli does both Dare and M.A.C.H. 1. His art on the latter’s better.

Though inoffensive, it does plod.

CREDITS

Invasion, Tyne Tunnel; writer, Gerry Finley-Day; artist, Mike Dorey; letterer, John Aldrich. Harlem Heroes, Part Twenty-three; writer, Tom Tully; artist and letterer, Dave Gibbons. Shako, Part Four; writers, Pat Mills and John Wagner; artist, Arancio; letterer, Jack Potter. Dan Dare, Hollow World, Part Twelve; writer, Steve Moore; artist, Massimo Belardinelli; letterer, Aldrich. M.A.C.H. 1, Spy Plane; writer, Robert Flynn; artist, Belardinelli; letterer, Aldrich. Judge Dredd, Smoker’s Crime; writer, Finley-Day; artist, Mike McMahon; letterers, Tom Frame and Peter Knight. Editor, Kelvin Gosnell; publisher, IPC.

2000 AD 22 (23 July 1977)

144912

Odd, odd issue. Lots of too long stories and too short ones.

Invasion and Shako are both way too short. Invasion is dumb and–inexplicably–for laughs. Shako is dumb and serious; at least it has good art from Arancio, who’d have been better served just doing wildlife studies.

Bad Harlem Heroes. Bad Dan Dare. Dare reads really, really long. For that matter, so does M.A.C.H. 1. Dare is just more nonsense with Dare versus the Mekon, who isn’t actually very smart, but M.A.C.H. is this really complicated story about the machine man proving himself in the Middle East. Writer Nick Allen relies a whole lot on the computer talking to the protagonist, which flops.

But not even Dredd works out until the end. Writer John Wagner takes a while to get going. Ian Gibson’s art is good throughout and the story ends well, but the beginning’s weak.

Weird issue.

CREDITS

Invasion, Cheddar Gorge; writer, Nick Allen; artist, John Cooper; letterer, Jack Potter. Shako, Part Three; writers, Pat Mills and John Wagner; artist, Arancio; letterer, Potter. Harlem Heroes, Part Twenty-two; writer, Tom Tully; artist and letterer, Dave Gibbons. Dan Dare, Hollow World, Part Eleven; writer, Steve Moore; artist, Massimo Belardinelli; letterer, John Aldrich. M.A.C.H. 1, Arab Story; writer, Allen; artist, Cooper; letterer, Potter. Judge Dredd, Mr Buzzz; writer, Wagner; artist, Ian Gibson; letterer, Peter Knight. Editor, Kelvin Gosnell; publisher, IPC.

2000 AD 21 (16 July 1977)

144911

It’s not the worst issue but there’s sure nothing to recommend it. Not even Dredd. Gerry Finley-Day writes both it and Invasion. Neither stand out except by not being as bad as the rest of the entries. Good twist at the end of Dredd though.

Oh, wait, Shako. It has some really nice art from Arancio. It’s beyond dumb–it’s the adventures of a mean-spirited, fugitive from the CIA polar bear–but it’s well drawn dumb.

Harlem Heroes and Dan Dare both stink in uninteresting ways. It almost seemed like Heroes was going to end, but then Tully finds a way to keep it going. Presumably forever. The main characters barely appear this story. I can’t even remember Dare.

M.A.C.H. 1 is a strange one; it’s not good, but the idea of the Probe character doing private investigation work isn’t a bad one. Carlos’s art isn’t terrible either.

CREDITS

Invasion, Sandringham; writer, Gerry Finley-Day; artist, Mike Dorey; letterer, Peter Knight. Shako, Part Two; writers, Pat Mills and John Wagner; artist, Arancio; letterer, Jack Potter. Harlem Heroes, Part Twenty-one; writer, Tom Tully; artist and letterer, Dave Gibbons. Dan Dare, Hollow World, Part Ten; writer, Steve Moore; artist, Massimo Belardinelli; letterers, Knight and Bill Nuttall. M.A.C.H. 1, Recluse; writer, Nick Allen; artist, Carlos; letterer, John Aldrich. Judge Dredd, The Solar Sniper; writer, Finley-Day; artist, Ron Turner; letterer, Potter. Editor, Kelvin Gosnell; publisher, IPC.

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