Saturday, April 8, 2017

'Batman: Under the 'Red Hood,' 'Captain America Reborn' are instant classics

This flashback takes us to 2011 when I reviewed the "Batman: Under the Red Hood" animated movie (still one of my favorites) and a limited series that brought the original Captain America, Steve Rogers, back from being trapped in time. Father Time really seems to have it out for the Super Soldier! So enjoy these two reviews from the original Cary's Comics Craze, a twice-monthly newspaper column in the NORWALK REFLECTOR -- here on my blog for the first time! ...

Nov. 30, 2011 -- “Intense” remains the only word I can come up with to properly describe the “Batman: Under the Red Hood” DVD.

As for the CAPTAIN AMERICA REBORN hardback compilation I checked out from the Norwalk Public Library, my one-word review on that would be “fitting.” More on that later in this column. 

“Red Hood” is the first truly solo Batman adventure in this eighth installment of the animated, independent DC Universe PG-13 DVDs. “Batman: Gotham Knight” from mid-July 2008 was more about creating even more buzz about the live-action film “The Dark Knight” than it was telling a Batman story.

Screenwriter Judd Winick’s “Red Hood” feels “inspired by” and “based on” his original comic-book storyline, yet he also manages to make it truly original. Readers of Batman’s recent comic-book tales will be familiar with this story, but Winick takes us to different places at unexpected times without ever jeopardizing or cheapening his powerful adventure.

The DVD pays homage to the “A Death in the Family” storyline in which the Joker brutally murders the second Robin (Jason Todd). While it is combined with Winick’s own “Under the Red Hood” comic-book story arc — in which the resurrected Todd returns to Gotham City as a take-no-prisoners vigilante, this animated version never feels like a tired cut-and paste, condensed remake of both stories.

"Batman: Under the Red Hood" includes a flashback and homage to the "Death
in the Family" storyline in which Jason Todd was murdered by the Joker.
In the animated movie, Todd's Robin wears a variation of the Tim Drake costume.
Somehow Winick and director Brandon Vietti kept me guessing how this story would resolve itself.

(To avoid 6-year-old spoilers, skip to the next paragraph.) The reasoning Ra’s al Ghul has for putting Todd’s corpse into the Lazarus Pit is nothing short of twisted. He tells Batman he wanted to make up for The Joker unexpectedly murdering Robin/Todd when Ra’s hired The Joker to distract the Dynamic Duo from his plan of overthrowing the world’s financial institutions. But, Ra’s didn’t expect the boy to be so crazed and maniacal after the Lazarus Pit rejuvenated him. (End spoilers)

Obviously, this story can’t be done without the climactic showdown between Todd’s Red Hood and Batman with the Joker as Todd’s hostage. The animated version is so intense I was worrying how it was going to end and still stay under or within DC’s/Warner Bros.’ self-restricted 70-minute time restriction. I literally was sitting on the edge of my seat. Grade: A 

As far as CAPTAIN AMERICA REBORN goes, I found it compelling despite my usual hesitancy when writers use time travel as a storytelling device. In this case, the late Steve Rogers is returning to the present time.

I actually could remember some of the original CAPTAIN AMERICA and INVADERS stories set in World War II as Rogers/Cap struggles to figure out how his long-time and deadliest enemy, The Red Skull, has him “jumping through time” to witness and experience his previous battles and notable incidents.

As in any great Captain America story, the finale comes down to Cap taking on The Red Skull. And as always, Rogers uses pure determination and will power to overcome his enemy’s evil plans. Writer Ed Brubaker and artist Bryan Hitch have created a must-read instant classic. Grade: A

EDITOR'S NOTE: Cary's Comics Craze webmaster/blogger Cary Ashby wrote the original CCC for the NORWALK REFLECTOR for about nine years. He remains a staff writer at the newspaper, where he currently is the features writer and covers government, Norwalk City Schools and as much entertainment as his bosses will allow him. Ashby covered the "cops and courts" beat for more than 12 years.

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