Batman #51 by Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo

Fifty-one consecutive issues driven by the same core talent – a true feat in the comic book world. This flagship of DC’s New 52 has retained its quality and ability to captivate from start to finish. Scott Snyder is a masterful storyteller whose vision of Batman came to fruition with thanks largely to Greg Capullo’s modern style. There couldn’t have been a better team to drive this ambitious era of the Dark Knight.

 

I previously thought Batman #50 was the end since it saw the conclusion of the ‘Superheavy’ Mr. Bloom saga. In all honesty, I was underwhelmed by #50 and the issue 49 leading to it. Everything leading up to it was so intense that I think my expectations became somewhat (unreasonably) high. The big finale was good, but nowhere near good enough to cap off the legendary Snyder/Capullo run. So how about #51? Was it a worthy end?

 

(potential spoilers to follow)

 

Batman #51 by Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo

 

 

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Yes, it was absolutely a worthy end.

 

Unlike the death and cataclysm you’d expect, Scott Snyder wrote an epilogue of sorts that gave us the exact opposite. We get to see the newly minted Bruce Wayne venture into the city when in actuality, nothing is wrong. A power outage throughout Gotham has the Bat assuming the worst. He visits every usual suspect to find that none of them are involved in the event that put the city in the dark. We get to see just about every villainous element from the New 52 including the Arkham crew (minus the Joker) right down to the Court of Owls mysteriously plotting something nefarious in Gotham’s underbelly.

 

As Batman searches for the culprit you’d expect him to see the worst unfolding in the blackout. Instead, he sees a man chasing after a woman and her child to RETURN her dropped purse. He sees families enjoying candle lit dinners and friends conversing without hesitation on a rooftop. He witnesses Gotham unafraid – a Gotham that is rarely shown. There must be a circumstance of fear or a criminal element For Batman’s justice to be served. In this instance, he essentially has the night off.

 

When I describe it, this issue almost sounds boring when it is anything but. Tension builds throughout all the way until the point Batman learns that the blackout was a natural occurrence. I really expected this to jump right into another storyline that will be explored by Snyder and Capullo’s successors (there was a little bit of that but it certainly wasn’t the point of the issue). As he moved from place to place and villain to villain, I never thought of it as a true epilogue so I anticipated things to go to hell.

 

The story is framed around little lines of white text in black boxes themed “Gotham is…”. I didn’t really get their purpose until the end when you see that an editorial column is unfolding. In this piece, a columnist receives letters from Gotham’s citizens finishing the sentence “Gotham is…”. He notes that the letters were originally a true reflection of the average Gothamite’s mindset – disturbed, dark, and depressed. However, the column contributions gradually transformed into something else. Hope began to show when there once was none at all. He notes that the people of Gotham are only able to feel hopeful because they have a protector, they have the Batman.

 

How often do you get to see Batman, a tortured soul by nature, happy? You don’t. And I’m so glad Scott Snyder left us with an inkling of hope. It was refreshing to end a legendary run in such a way.

 

My rating of Batman #51 is 10 out of 10. It couldn’t have ended with anything less.

 

10 out of 10

 

Seriously – go read it even if you’re not current with the story. I think I’m going to read through it again right now.

 

 

LEGO Star Wars: Droid Escape Pod

LEGO continues their push to recreate classic scenes in brick form with their spring releases. Much like the brilliant Carbon-Freezing Chamber, the Droid Escape Pod #75136 provides a nice selection of minifigures (for a small set) at a reasonable ticket price. I’ll break down my thoughts into a few key points.

 

Minifigures

 

There are two separate Jawas included with the set. This was a major draw for me since I (shockingly) didn’t have any of the little guys in my sprawling Minifigure collection. The only differentiator between the two is that they have unique weapons. I believe one is intended to replicate the stun device used against R2D2 in A New Hope.

 

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This is the third C3PO to join my collection. It’s not all that different from previous appearances, however, subtle changes in his leg printing were made. I love how much LEGO has advanced their standard level of detail as the years and decades have passed. Here’s a picture of the three I have in my collection – it’s like night and day when comparing the earlier versions to this one and the red armed version from Force Awakens.

 

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The middle one is what comes with the Escape Pod

 

Confession time…. This is my first “normal” R2D2. I know… I’m a disgrace. I already had the snowman version from the advent calendar but had never grabbed a set that had good ol’ R2. It’s good to have him join my brick horde! Even though I have no tangible basis for comparison, I hear there are enhanced details in the print coloring.

 

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Set/Build

 

Overall, it’s a pretty simple set. The piece count is low (more on that in the next section) so it won’t take long to get everything together. There are a few interesting techniques in regards to flipping the build around to expand from another direction. The way it is structured for the pod shape with a playable opening is clever.

 

 

Its biggest flaw is the reliance on decals… I HATE DECALS. For those of us with meaty paws, placing a detail is like defusing a bomb. Unbeknownst to me, I actually placed one decal without realizing the component needed to be flipped around. Once I flipped it, the little asshole sticker was oriented wrong. An obscenity-filled scratch session fixed the problem, however, that little wrinkled corner made when I peeled it off will always be there laughing at me…

 

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Monkey funking decals

 

One of the major highlights is the tile piece printed with the Death Star plans. Tiny details like this bring magic to LEGO. From a play standpoint, the Death Star tile inserts into the panel on the pod then can be removed when the droids escape.

 

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The sensor panel is a decal, unfortunately.

 

Value

 

There’s a lot to like about this set. It has plenty of playable features with enough minifigures to recreate the scene. I’ve heard many complain that the price point is too high for a set with only 197 pieces. The thing about The Droid Escape Pod, is that the set is almost an afterthought for there being four distinct(ish) minifigures. Had they limited it to one Jawa I think it would need to be a $19.99 set. All things considered, $24.99 isn’t a bad ticket price for what you get.

 

My rating of the DROID ESCAPE POD (set number) is 7.5 out of 10.

 

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Top 10 Star Wars Soundtrack Pieces

With all of the ups and downs of the ever-expanding Star Wars universe, one factor that has consistently delivered is the music. John Williams’ undeniable wizardry has added its own level of magic to a pretty darn magical setting. The theme and several notable pieces are unmistakable even in the smallest doses. Many people view those few notable pieces as the only highlights while dismissing the rest as background filler. In reality, there’s no shortage of tracks that magnificently tell their stories with all the emotion that comes from its parentage.

 

I put some thought into it and came up with a list of my favorites. I’ll elaborate my decision with each choice. Every song title header is a hyperlink to a YouTube recording to make things easy if you’d like to check it out. Also, if you feel differently, or have your own favorite tracks, PLEASE leave them in the comments! There’s no such thing as too many options or opinions with the score of my favorite saga. Drumroll please…..

 

  1. Rey’s Theme

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A major highlight from The Force Awakens, Rey’s Theme is the most hopeful track on this list. It perfectly emulates the sense of adventure that was hard to find after Episode IV. It’s also a wonderful match for Rey’s character; carrying on John William’s knack for composing music that is practically synonymous with the character it’s written for. The theme compliments its character on a level beyond what is seen.

 

  1. Anakin’s Betrayal

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Easily among the most sorrowful pieces in the Star Wars soundtrack catalogue, Anakin’s Betrayal plays during the execution of Order 66. As the Jedi fall, Anakin’s allegiance to the light fades in desperation to the darkness. It’s a powerful track that underscores a turning point in the saga’s lore.

 

  1. The Throne Room/End Title

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It’s difficult to hear this track without visualizing the fanfare on Yavin 4 after the destruction of the first Death Star. You can just see RD2D bleeping away through a formal ceremony and Chewbacca making a fashion statement. Some of the end title music on the other movies feels like a rehash of the same tune whereas the seamless transition from the Throne Room to the end credits makes this far more likely to be played in its entirety whenever it pops up on my playlist.

 

  1. Imperial March

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What kind of top ten list would this be without mentioning the Imperial March? No elaboration needed there!

 

  1. The Destruction of Xizor’s Palace

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Yes, I am aware this piece was not featured in any of the Star Wars films. Here’s the best part – it’s a soundtrack written for a book. Shockingly, this selection also made the cut even though it was not composed by John Williams. The entire soundtrack was composed by Joel McNeely and performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra for the fantastic book SHADOWS OF THE EMPIRE by Steve Perry. If you haven’t read the novel, and are even remotely a Star Wars fan (I assume you are since you’ve made it this far in my rambling list), definitely check it out. Even though it’s part of the Legends line which exists outside of the post-Disney canon, it’s a hell of a story. They made it a big crossover event with some Darkhorse comics, a Nintendo game, and various toys. I won’t elaborate on the story but I will say that The Destruction of Xizor’s Palace is a longer piece which is set during the climax of the book. It’s filled with ups and downs with some nice nods to the Imperial March. The entire SHADOWS OF THE EMPIRE soundtrack is a hidden gem in the mastery of Star Wars themes.

 

  1. The Battle of Endor I

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This long track plays alongside some of Return of the Jedi’s most important moments. The Battle of Endor is technically two tracks but the first is my favorite. Due to the way it is spread throughout the movie’s final act, the only way you can hear it in its entirety is to listen to the soundtrack. I do recommend any Star Wars fan check it out to relive the Rebellion’s last ditch effort (filmed, at least) to topple the Galactic Empire. There are certain moments that will delight you as you remember the exact moment in the movie it was set to.

 

  1. Battle of the Heroes

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Obi-Wan’s clash with Anakin is essentially the culmination of the prequel trilogy. Battle of the Heroes stresses the significance of this moment without a lightsaber to be found. The combination of chorus and orchestra accompanying percussion highlights allows you to visualize the grandiose spectacle of a brotherly bond coming to a dramatic end while surrounded by Mustafar’s hellish landscape. Although similar to the track ‘Anakin vs. Obi-Wan’, I feel it is a better representation of what the scene sought to accomplish.

 

  1. Torn Apart

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Ah crap! Not the feels again! Taking place in The Force Awakens during the scene that made me tear up in all three of my theatrical viewings AND my first Blu-ray viewing, Torn Apart tells a story of hope giving way to trepidation before collapsing entirely under the weight of darkness. Once it’s tone becomes tragically dire, it shifts into a more vengeful and fast paced finish. This track is perfect.

 

  1. Duel of the Fates

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The track that promotionally reintroduced the world to Star Wars while throwing us into a slightly longer time ago in a galaxy far, far away. This song alone set a high bar that its film simply couldn’t reach. Putting the film aside, Duel of the Fates is utterly fantastic. The vocals are powerful even if you can’t tell what the hell they are saying. Duel of the Fates showed us what Phantom Menace could have been without shying away from embracing that all on its own.

 

  1. Anakin’s Dark Deeds

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I rather enjoyed Revenge of the Sith. I’m captivated every time I see Anakin’s final decent into the Dark Side. The track has an ominously quiet opening that crescendos in an instant into dramatic choir lines underscored by a powerful orchestra. All throughout it’s like a tug of war between these dramatic crescendos and emotional segways of string and brass. A strong low brass component will always pull me in thanks to time playing the trombone long ago. ‘Anakin’s Dark Deeds’ is a perfect representation of one of the saga’s most pivotal character developments. When this pops up on my playlist, I usually end up repeating it once or twice because of its ability to move me.

 

 

So there you have it! Was your favorite on the list? If any of these are new to you I highly recommend you give them a shot.