Gotham – Season Two – Premiere Review

First, allow me to explain my feelings towards Gotham prior to reviewing the premiere of its second season…….

If you know me, or have read my reviews, you probably know I’m a big Batman fan (Bat-Fan?). My wife is even more of a Batman nut so you’d better believe Fox’s Gotham was welcomed with open arms last year. We stuck with it through all of the normal first season ups and downs. Ultimately, I was less in favor of the series than she was. Twenty-two episodes is a lot for the freshman year of an hour long drama series. Some story lines were dragged on farrrr past their expiration date while others were glossed over in the name of adding more characters. They should have kept it to 12 or 13 to resist the urge for pointless indulgence. Although, one thing I will give Gotham credit for is perfectly casting its core lineup. The actors have enough chemistry to make you want to be some level of invested in their on screen futures.

Then there is the matter of the source material. Batman has 76 years of rich material to fall back on – adapting that for television is no small task. Which characters should be used? Which stories should be told? Answering those questions without incurring the wrath of comic fandom is an unenviable task. The creators of Gotham should not be bound by the established canon, yet, how far off the rails should they stray? These are tough questions with answers that will vary from fan to fan. My answers aren’t nearly as positive as they were in the first half of season one.

Fast forward to this week’s grand unveiling of the “Rise of the Villains”…. I wish I had nice things to say. I wish I could say that Gotham learned from its first season shortcomings to reward viewers for tuning back in. I wish Fox didn’t focus on certain popular aspects of a show while alienating other aspects (Example – Family Guy, Sleepy Hollow, etc). After the first episode I fear those wishes will not be granted.

Now time for the spoilery thoughts….

A few points:

  • Jerome – I think I can declare that I hate this character. Why does he need to be in the show? If he IS supposed to be the Joker, which looks pretty damn likely, then he should not be featured in Gotham. The Joker is one of a kind with a devilish charm and demented sense of humor. I feel strongly that not everything needs to have an origin story!! His absence of an origin (discounting Alan Moore’s or Tim Burton’s takes) is part of what makes him such a terrifying foe for Batman. Batman’s origin is set in stone and the Joker is a mystery; they are two ends of a dichotomy that are destined to clash. This portrayal is way over the top. Is Gotham supposed to be a rehash of ’66 Batman or a gritty crime drama? Jerome makes it seem that way.
  • Barbara Gordon – she’s the weakest character. This was overly apparent in the first season as the creators struggled to give her any hint of relevance. Why keep trying? They’ve shown that they won’t be bound by the source material so they should go ahead and get rid of her. Also – a coed criminal mental institution that allows their female inmates to wear ridiculous dresses? Not even Arkham Asylum is that messed up.
  • Blue belched knockout gas? Come on….
  • I’m looking forward to them spending more time with the Jim/Harvey dynamic. The two characters are perfectly portrayed. Gotham deserves the points they earn for this… god knows they need it.
  • Penguin and Riddler are fantastic. Both actors are true to the character while making it their own. I wish they’d focus more on the characters that work rather than trying to bring in every Batman villain imaginable a decade before they should exist.
  • Alfred Pennyworth. Who doesn’t love Alfred?

My rating of Gotham’s season two premiere is a disappointing 5 out of 10.

5 out of 10

There’s a lot of other shows out there begging for my loyal viewership. I’ll give them two more episodes to change my mind then I might have to throw in the towel.

Batman #44 by Scott Snyder, Brian Azzarello & Jock

Batman #44 by Scott Snyder, Brian Azzarello & Jock

I’ll try to make this a quicker review because I don’t want even the remote chance of spoiling this issue for anyone. It’s not that there are any “shocking” moments or “this page changes everything” aspects…. it’s because I really enjoyed Batman #44 and wouldn’t want to sully the childlike captivation that a new comic can bring to someone. Also, I normally hold off on reviewing a title until it has been published as a trade paper volume that I can sink my teeth into. This issue is worth making an exception.

Batman #44 is written by Scott Snyder, co-written by Brian Azzarello and guest-illustrated by Jock (‘guest’ because he hasn’t worked on this particular Batman series). Scott Snyder and Jock make a hell of a team so once I heard about Jock’s involvement I immediately went on the hunt for this issue.

One neat factor about Batman #44 is that it is somewhat separated from the current storyline, meaning, it can be enjoyed even if you’re not up to speed on the Jim Gordon Batman/ Mr. Bloom era. The connections it does have to the ongoing Batman series are perfect and thought provoking. It takes place five years before the current story. Batman is still rather new on the job so he has more to prove to himself than he does to Gotham. To do this, he sets out to solve an ‘everyday’ murder in one of the worst areas of the city. He reasons that doing this will remind him why this crusade is so important. In Batman’s eyes, this is a simple task in the city he knows so well… or does he? It’s a question he’s forced to ask as Gotham reminds him nothing in this urban jungle is simple.

Jock’s style is perfect (as always) because it possesses a certain dark, gritty whimsy that reinforces the jump in time. There’s plenty of social commentary present in Batman #44. These prevalent themes could easily turn me away from the pages. Comics regularly walk a line with social commentary; they involve heavy issues that can tip the scales of enjoyment in the wrong direction. If this issue was handled by any other creative team then that could have been the case. Thankfully, DC is trusting Batman to very capable hands.

My rating of BATMAN #44 is a solid 9 out of 10. Pick this one up – you won’t regret it!

9 out of 10

BATMAN: UNDER THE RED HOOD by Judd Winick & Doug Mahnke

I watched the movie Batman Under the Red Hood a year or two before I finally got my hands on the source material. The movie was gritty and violently satisfying. Then, at long last, I ordered a copy of the book…

BATMAN: UNDER THE RED HOOD by Judd Winick & Doug Mahnke

I’d never read anything by Judd Winick but Doug Mahnke was a familiar name from his Justice League and Green Lantern work. These talented gentlemen make a great team because BATMAN: UNDER THE RED HOOD was an enthralling read.

Fast and furious, the Red Hood comes into Gotham to efficiently transplant himself into the industrious crime that the city is so known for. Red Hood is essentially Batman, but with no boundaries whatsoever. He quickly reveals himself as Jason Todd – the fallen second Robin. This reveal shakes the Dark Knight to his core.

Jason Todd’s death is the shadow lurking over a man who exists in the shadows. Prior to this volume, old wounds left from Jason’s death at the hands of the Joker were reopened from a farce perpetrated by Hush. This story takes place after those wounds mostly healed once again. Fast and furious, the Red Hood comes into Gotham to efficiently transplant himself into the industrious crime that the city is so known for. Batman must deal with the threat while trying not to fail his former protege.

Batman, by nature, is a tortured soul. His tragic origin is accepted to a point where people expect him to be cold, calculated, and remorselessly driven by his vengeful mission. The Batman is so effective in this role that it’s easy to think of him as being incapable of experiencing anything else. However, underneath the cowl there is still Bruce Wayne – a man who should be able to experience the emotional shortcomings that define humanity. Throughout this superbly executed read you get a real sense of the Dark Knight’s tortured conscience.

I don’t want to say anything else about the story because I’d hate to take away from its gripping appeal. On a more trivial note – 384 pages is on the high end for your average graphic novel. Most stick between 150-200 pages so getting that much more for a comparable price was enough reason to bump this higher on my priority list. I’m pleased to say that it’ll go back in line for a re-read.

8 out of 10Half a star.png

My rating of BATMAN: UNDER THE RED HOOD is a vengeful 8.5 out of 10.