If you’re like me, than you too are probably wondering what in the world is going on with all of these Batman titles DC Comics has been releasing since their “New 52” reboot last year. There’s Batman, Detective Comics, Batman: The Dark Knight, and Batman & Robin. What’s the difference with each of these titles? Are they even good? Are they worth your valuable time AND money? I decided to set out and answer these questions for myself, and I hope what I found can help others who have been wondering the same thing. So, in honor of the week leading up to this Friday’s release of The Dark Knight Rises, I proudly present:
A DUMMY’S GUIDE TO DC COMICS’ “NEW 52” BATMAN TITLES
We’ll start with the series DC Comics has been referring to as their “flagship title”: Detective Comics. We’ll examine the other titles one by one after that.
1. DETECTIVE COMICS
Written as well as sometimes-drawn by Tony S. Daniel, with some art by Julio Ferreira, Detective Comics, in my opinion, has been the lackluster let-down of the Bat titles. Daniel’s writing isn’t that great, and even though the book shines (a little) when Daniel is drawing as well – Ferreira kinda sucks, no offense – this title is just…blah. It’s not bad, but it’s not good. It’s like purgatory for Batman comics. While the series definitely has a good-old-fashioned-mystery approach, which actually makes it somewhat digestible, it’s not enough to make up for Daniel’s seemingly lazy writing. The dialogue is downright cardboard, and the characters just seem to be the hollowest possible versions of themselves. He would definitely be better at sticking with art – get someone else to write Detective Comics and it could probably come a lot closer to being DC’s “flagship title.” Definitely get someone to replace Ferreira (again, no offense). Final Verdict: Stay away from Detective Comics and save your money and time…for now, at least. Apparently DC is replacing Daniel, so there may be hope in the future. I wouldn’t hold your breath, though.
2. Batman: The Dark Knight
This series is actually pretty awesome. With a more horror-fueled macabre take on Batman, Batman: The Dark Knight is also chock-full of strong characterizations of familiar characters like Bruce, Alfred, and Commissioner Gordon, as well as some great writing and dialogue. In fact, it more than makes up for the letdown that Detective Comics is. Definitely be warned, however: if you are easily scared or disturbed by really, really creepy images, art, characters, and storylines, Batman: The Dark Knight might not be your cup o’ tea. Taking a look at the cover to issue #10 should give you a pretty good idea of what the book’s content is like: dark, disturbing, and (for those of us who like dark and disturbing) delicious. Where Detective Comics focused more on the detective side of Batman, Batman: The Dark Knight takes that to the extreme, having Bats work his way through some pretty crazy mysteries that would shatter even the hardest of psyches. David Finch’s art is awesome – his style definitely fits with the darker atmosphere of this series – and Gregg Hurwitz’s writing is great. DC just recently announced that they will be replacing Hurwitz as the series writer, so we’ll have to wait and see how the new guy does. Hopefully Batman: The Dark Knight won’t suffer for it and stay one of the best Batman titles. Final Verdict: Worth your time and money, but only if you can handle the darker – maybe even darkest – side of the Bat.
3. Batman & Robin
Let me begin by saying this: Peter J. Tomasi is, to borrow the parlance of our times, “The Man” (you can probably already guess how the rest of this little review snippet is going to go). Any of you who have read his work on the epic Green Lantern Corps or the ridiculously creative The Mighty will already know that if Tomasi is writing Batman & Robin, chances are it’s pretty freaking awesome. And you’d be totally right: Tomasi’s Batman & Robin is incredible. The writing, dialogue, and characterization is spot on, and the art – by Patrick Gleason – is phenomenal. Batman & Robin focuses on the frequently escalating relationship between Bruce Wayne/Batman and his son Damien Wayne/Robin. Since this Robin was raised by his mother, an assassin, he doesn’t have a problem killing bad guys, but as we all know, Dad does have a problem with that. This tension between father and son gives this series an extra depth that’s rarely seen in superhero comics. Not only do you have father and son fighting crime together, but you also have father and son butting heads over right and wrong and their personal philosophies to crime-fighting. Heady stuff, and that’s what makes this series a must-read. But don’t think that it’s just heady – it’s also ridiculously fun. Final Verdict: A must-read, if you love Batman especially, and if you love Peter J. Tomasi’s work on Green Lantern Corps. Even if you’re like me and don’t really like Robin at all, this series is still worth getting: Tomasi gives Robin a depth and character that is refreshing and actually manages to make the perpetually annoying sidekick bearable AND enjoyable.
I purposefully saved the best Batman title for last. Batman, written by Scott Snyder, with art by the exceptional Greg Capullo, is the Batman title everyone should be reading. Snyder’s Batman manages to take the hardcore detective aspect of Detective Comics and tweak it for the better, then blend that with the creepy, horror-movie atmosphere of Batman: The Dark Knight while permeating the whole thing with the depth and crisp storytelling and characterization of Batman & Robin, making what I think is the greatest take on The Bat yet. Scott Snyder will forever – for me at least – be to Batman what Geoff Johns is to Green Lantern and Grant Morrison is to Superman. It’s that great. Final Verdict: If you’re not reading Scott Snyder’s Batman, you’re missing out on one of the greatest comic books of all time. Period.
Well, that’s it. I hope this may have cleared up some confusion about the different Batman titles DC Comics has swirling around out there!