‘Batman Bad Blood’: Beware the Nunja

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)

So Batman, the real Batman (Jason O’Mara) has gone missing. Of course this new chick running around in what looks like Terry McGinnis’ Bat colors — we eventually learn she’s called Batwoman — is trying to both patrol the streets in his absence and look for Batman without arousing suspicion, too. Because well, it’s kind of her fault Batsy went missing in the first place – Katherine (Yvonne Strahovski) tried to take on Killer Moth, Firefly, Electrocutioner, Blockbuster, and some new masked dude who’s a badass, all on her lonesome. Batman had to wing in to save the day and disappeared in the ensuing explosion.

Now, what? Nightwing (Sean Maher) gets a distress call to the Batcave, Damien Wayne (Stuart Allen) ducked out of his temple hideout to come see what’s up, and, of course, Batwoman herself is out and about, looking for Batman and trying to pick up the slack. Dear butler Alfred (James Garrett) is covering for Bruce Wayne as best he can, but people are beginning to take notice, both of the missing millionaire and the lack of his super-secret alter ego. Lucius Fox (Ernie Hudson) and his son Luke (Gaius Charles) are having their suspicions, too. With no other real option, Dick Grayson very reluctantly dons the mantle of the Bat, and, of course, Damien has to take on Dick’s original Robin costume, to go out and prove that, hey man, everything’s fine, really.

This new villainous man that seemed so eerily familiar to Bruce Wayne apparently goes by the name Heretic and, of course, he’s near-impossible to track down, let alone beat to a standstill. Katherine meets with her father Colonel Jacob Kane to ask for some help finding Heretic, revealing her backstory about the time she was saved and redeemed by Batman, leading her to become Batwoman. Meanwhile Luke Fox, a soldier returned from Afghanistan no less, is trying to get his dad to open up about Wayne secrets, when there’s a raid on the Wayne enterprises vault! Heretic and his goons strike again! But why are they assaulting the Wayne vault in particular?

Spoilers winging at you!

Everyone knows who Talia al Ghul is, right? League of Assassins, daughter of Ra’s al Ghul and inheritor of that whole Lazarus Pit problem, mother of Damien Wayne and all-around problem psychopath, Talia al Ghul (Morena Baccarin) has never shied from thinking big and using every last bit of League resources to accomplish her goals. This time, they’re astronomical: build a rapidly-grown clone from Damien’s DNA, but the Jarvis Tetch version of the brain program left him with those pesky things like consciousness and free will. Because that never caused problems in similar situations, noooo. This inevitably leads to Heretic (Travis Willingham) wanting to kidnap Bruce Wayne and empty his head of all memories and experiences for his own, which makes an insane kind of sense, like a masochistic Pinnochio. Make me a real boy, Daddy, or I’ll take it from you.

All of what happens in the final confrontation isn’t exactly what you might expect, given the insanity that has a tendency to run in the al Ghul family. Hell, Bruce Wayne and all the rest of his chosen “Bat-family” aren’t the most stable, mentally speaking. And it looks like the family gets a new “brother,” when Luke decides the others need his help and has his fathers machine makers design a whole new bat suit for fighting, dubbing himself the highly original moniker “Batwing.” Despite Heretic’s avowed hatred and Talia’s everlasting ambition, neither can escape the ties of bad blood that bind them to each-other, reminding all of us why you should never do business with family.

There are lots of enjoyable nods to the ongoing history of the Bat family and Batman in the DC comics-verse in general. The nuns armed with katanas and AK-47s guarding the place where Talia has Bruce locked up – hence the “nunjas” as Nightwing points out – are hilarious, and right up the League’s alley for over-the-top-ness. Luke Fox becoming Batwing was interesting, we just knew it was inevitable that someone from the Fox line would eventually join the Bat family in an actual costume. And I still think it’s awesome that Talia would hire the Mad Hatter as a brain doctor for her rapidly-grown cloned super-soldier’s mind control!

Score your very own nunja fighting bats at Amazon!

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Wondercon 2015: ‘Batman vs. Robin’ Flies in the Court of Owls

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)

Warning! All kinds of spoilerific horror abounds within!

So, Batman vs. Robin takes up only a few months after where Son of Batman left off, with the devastating news that Damien is the son of Talia al Ghul and Bruce Wayne. This means that mad immortal bastard, Ra’s al Ghul, is Damien’s grandfather and his whole family tree is screwed beyond belief! When we catch up to Bats and the newly-mantled, next-generation Robin, Damien is of course already chafing under the restrictive yoke both Batman and Bruce Wayne are attempting to place upon him. Already trained under his admittedly sociopathic grandfather, Damien also resents the fact that Batman refuses to kill the criminals they catch, leading to yet more confrontations.

Even bringing in the original Robin, Dick Grayson, now a young man proudly busting criminals as Nightwing, doesn’t help, and sadly notches Damien’s resentment even further. When the mysterious representative of the secret underbelly society of Gotham known as the Court of Owls comes to offer Damien the vigilante freedom that is supposedly his birthright, what will the resentful son of the Dark Knight do now?

We were fortunate to be treated to a screening of Batman vs. Robin in the Arena section of the Anaheim convention center, and boy, was it worth the crowded seating. The fight scenes of the film, and there were many, were given incredible detail and could be easily thought of as real-life instead of cartoons. The struggle of Bruce Wayne trying to discipline a young man who is very much like him is approached with grace, even when it finally comes down to fisticuffs between Wayne and Wayne Jr., Damien’s own grapplings with the ideas of fate and blood-inheritance versus what he himself truly wants is something that, at its core, we can all appreciate.

After the movie was over and the cheering died down, creators James Tucker, Jay Oliva, J.M. Dematheis, Phil Bourassa and Andrea Romano came out to talk to the audience, along with cast members Sean Maher (Dick Grayson/Nightwing), Stuart Allen (Damien Wayne/Robin), and Jason O’Mara (Bruce Wayne/Batman).

The creators waxed poetic about their finally being able to introduce the beloved Court of Owls storyline into the Batman film universe. The film is based heavily on the Night of the Owls comic book storyline by Scott Snyder. Oliva mentioned that he specifically chose panels from the comics that Greg Capullo had illustrated, using a mythology that had already spanned several different comic books in the Batman world.

Bourassa happily agreed, “It was quite fun to delve into new characters that already had a long backstory that had, so far, not made it to the screen.” Bourassa went on to tell a brief story about how the Dollmaker, one of the villains of Batman vs. Robin, was based on a make-everything-and-the-kitchen-sink-into-a-weapon character he had dreamed up when he was in the fourth grade.

The returning voice cast of BvR expressed their gratitude to be part of the Batman-verse again. This was Jason O’Mara’s fourth time as the voice of Bruce Wayne and Batman, yet he still manages to remain charmingly humble, saying when he was asked by a fan if he thinks Batman is his character now, “Batman is shared by many great actors.” O’Mara went on to say that for this latest Batman film, he felt he spent more time as Bruce Wayne instead of Batman, and getting to know the man under the mask was vital for this particular film.

As an Easter egg for fans who notice that sort of thing, it was pointed out that Kevin Conroy, who had previously voiced Batman in no less than 11 series and features, was the voice of Thomas Wayne for Batman vs. Robin flashbacks. O’Mara related a story of nervously meeting Conroy for the first time, where Conroy jokingly choked the other actor for taking his place as Batman’s voice! O’Mara said he wouldn’t dare attempt to do his version of Batman’s voice in Conroy’s presence, since Conroy’s Batman and O’Mara’s Batman are two entirely different takes on the same beloved character.

Young Stuart Allen, voice of Damien Wayne and next-gen Robin, seemed at ease and enjoying his newfound fame in the Batman-verse. He spoke of schoolkids teasing him with, “How you doin’, Son of Batman?” only in terms of geeky admiration, and grinned about it.

Sean Maher, the voice of Nightwing, formerly the first-generation Robin under Batman’s tutelage, talked about the messed up father-son relationships between most of the characters sprinkled throughout Batman vs. Robin, and how most societies can appreciate such a thing. From Alfred taking the mantle of father figure to young Bruce Wayne, to struck-dumb adult Bruce Wayne trying to love his wayward son into obedience, in the end, as Oliva closed, “Everyone just needs a hug!”

Batman vs. Robin is out on Digital HD April 7, 2015, and DVD/Bluray April 14, 2015!

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