What a great week to be a Batman fan! We’ve got eight (that’s right… eight!) Bat books this week, so let this serve as your spoiler warning and let’s get right down to the reviews!
New Suicide Squad #1
The very concept of this book is literally anything can happen. And with the seemingly constant revolving door of creative teams on the previous volume, it seemed a little strange to me at first that there needed to be a new number one issue. And a new title, for that matter. Then I read the issue. Writer Sean Ryan does a great job bringing new readers up to speed with what the series used to be about. Then he breaks it all apart and tells us what it is about now. We see old teammates Deadshot, Harley Quinn, and Amanda Waller slowly but surely being replaced (for now) by newcomers and supposed equals (or even betters) Deathstroke, Joker’s Daughter, and “Victor Sage” respectively. Plus, you know, Black Manta thrown into the mix. Now, for those who don’t know who “Victor” is, I’m sure you’ll have some fun. For those who do, you’re probably on the same page as me and have a lot of… questions. The artwork of Jeremy Roberts is perfect for an action-packed book like this, and the storytelling style of this new creative team is quite kinetic and altogether fun. So when the Rocket Red army shows up at the end and it looks like Amanda Waller isn’t quite giving up on her old teammates, I know that I’ll be returning issue after issue to see more shit hit the fan. The only gripe I have is that I really don’t want any of these characters to die. And that’s kind of the whole point of the last series. Anything (or anyone) goes. Check this book out if you’re a fan of the Ostrander stuff or if you just liked the previous volume. Or Forever Evil, for that matter.
My Rating: 5/5
Talk about new and different! The last issue of Nightwing led us directly into the first issue of Grayson, but this is by no means a bad jumping on point for fans both new and old alike. Writers Tim Seeley and Tom King prove with just one (technically two) issues under their belt that they “get” the character of Dick Grayson. The intro pages (which let every reader know just how great artist Mikel Janin can be and always is) set up the story quite well: former Flying Grayson, former Boy Wonder, former dark heir, and most recently, former dead martyr. But then he was recruited by the mysterious Spyral organization, working alongside Helena Bertinelli and going on lots of super spy missions that are one part bad ass, one part superhero, and all parts witty banter. This issue features an extraction mission wherein Dick must kidnap a Russian with artificially implanted superpowers. But he runs into another mercenary, Stormwatch’s Midnighter, along the way. A few complications, acrobatics, and explosions later, Dick uses his newfound “talent” to quite literally save the day. He is then seen back at Spyral HQ, talking with his new boss and Helena about what went wrong and what went right. Then we see some sexual tension (always necessary for the spy genre) between Helena and Dick, some secret double agenting (also always necessary for the spy genre) between Dick and Batman, his real boss. And last, but certainly not least, we see some torturing and over-the-top villaining (an absolute must for the spy genre) between Mister Minos and Frau Netz. Leslie Thompkins may have given up Batman’s secret identity, but just how many other costumed heroes are in for a whole lot of headache is still up for grabs. Cyborg’s identity looks compromised. As do about a dozen others. This series might have further reaching implications than I initially gave it credit for having. Either that, or it’s just going to be a super fun read each and every month. I’m totally okay with either. Or both.
My Rating: 5/5
Gail Simone has reached the point that most writers of the comic book genre don’t do more than once: She has gotten back to the top of my pull list. Some writers stay consistently on the top, while others never make it. But for the most part, almost every writer (especially those who choose to write my favorite characters) have a slow rise, peak, and then either move onto other characters (to whom I’m much more forgiving) or simply vanish. Or worse. Start to suck. But Simone already had her time at the top of my list. And did the unthinkable and reached it yet again! Granted, her new storyline is pretty much Birds of Prey (hint hint, DC folks), but it’s still pretty damn good. Not to mention the excellent artwork from Fernando Pasarin adding a lot of character to this already stellar title. We see a great fight between Huntress and Batgirl, uncharacteristically broken up by Black Canary. Then we see some Knightfall plotting, getting all of her bad guy ducks in a row. We also see Babs talking with her roommate about who hired her to do her last job, which leads directly to a showdown between the Birds and Michael, Knightfall’s right hand man. Knightfall isn’t having any of that, so she does the typical villain thing and orders his death, but he’s saved by Batgirl and company last minute. Then the really awesome scene happens: Babs makes a call to her friends. All of her friends. The birds, the cops, the vigilantes, the assassins, and even, you know… Batman. Now if they can’t all stop Knightfall’s plan, I don’t know who can. But as the tagline on the cover says: “the battle for Gotham begins” here. I can’t wait to see said battle. Thanks for bringing this title back up to the top of my pull list, Ms. Simone!
My Rating: 5/5
Birds of Prey #33
Then there’s the actual Birds of Prey comic. Sigh. I really want to like this book. I don’t mind the Robson Rocha artwork, although some of the faces appear to be a bit rushed, and Christy Marx is usually a high quality writer, just maybe not meant for these characters. So when you add Suicide Squad to the guest star list, I can’t help but wonder if even DC knows that this title is bad. They have constant guest stars and still can’t seem to rise above mediocrity. This is by far the best issue of the series since this creative team took over, but that isn’t saying much. The editing is embarrassing. The narrative storytelling is confusing. And there is absolutely no consistent characterization going on… at all. So when we get an issue that is a fight sequence between a team that doesn’t exist in current continuity and another team that is vastly different from a book that came out this very week, it gets me wondering just how long this book is going to last. Dinah makes her team fight a bunch of psychos because she’s afraid Amanda Waller has been keeping more secrets about her, Team 7, and her husband. Fine. But why not just say that instead of randomly risking everyone’s lives and not actually fighting it out like the cover demonstrates? Harely Quinn and King Shark add some humor to an otherwise stale fight, but the action sequences are a vast improvement over the last few issues lack of, well, anything. So when the next issue box reads “things fall apart,” call me a bit skeptical, but haven’t they already? This series is in need of a desperate revamp. Maybe the “answers” Waller is going to provide for Dinah will give the team some newfound clarity. I certainly hope so.
My Rating: 3/5
Worlds’ Finest #25
Okay, Paul Levitz. We get it. You like Power Girl and Huntress. And yes, you used to be a pretty decent writer, but this entire series, for the most part, has been about them getting home. And it seems like the last year especially has been specifically about how they’re getting home. So when the last few issues explicitly say it’s going to happen, you’d think they’d just get on with it already! Tyler Kirkham’s art is a strange choice for an otherwise forgettable issue, but a welcome kind of strange. He adds a bit of mangaesque quality to a run-of-the-mill displaced heroes going home tale. Huntress and Power Girl team up against Desaad for (I highly doubt it) one last time. They leave their last wills and testaments for everyone who needs them to find. And they skedaddle out of here. And when they arrive on Earth 2, they are dumbfounded and shocked to see that, for some strange reason, the world is in complete shambles. Sigh. Come on, Levitz. You wrote their escape. They knew it was horrible. Why is there any surprise at all when it’s still horrible upon their return? I’m ready for this series to be either done or not written by Paul Levitz anymore. The title is completely misleading and the series should either end or be combined into one Earth 2 title. But oh wait… We get three now. And one of them is going to be weekly. Because THAT makes sense.
My Rating: 3/5
The New 52: Futures End #10
Speaking of weekly comics, Futures End is starting to get a little more structure as the issues come and go and the stories start to come together slowly but surely. Writing team Brian Azzarello, Jeff Lemire, Keith Giffen, and Dan Jurgens are joined by artist Aaron Lopresti as the future continues its dark and inevitable path toward being terrible. Superman and Lois have a talk, while the thieves meet up in a bar in New York City. Batman Beyond offers to help them, but gives away his secret identity in the process, attracting the supposed-to-be-dead Red Robin’s attention, who then sneaks away and gives his ladyfriend an impromptu gift. Then we see the new S. H. A. D. E. team floating around and trying to save the universe, when Hawkman’s Stormwatch communicator goes off, signaling that not everyone died in the first issue. Meanwhile, back on Cadmus Island, Grifter gets his ass (and pride) badly beated by an O. M. A. C., and Big Barda is found by the Global Peace Agency hiding out in Canada. New characters. New twists. And still not a whole lot of progress. Yet this still remains an entertaining, albeit convoluted and wholly unnecessary series. Let’s see if the pieces fall together more coherently next issue.
My Rating: 3/5
Detective Comics #33
The creative team of Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato didn’t quite do it for me in the pages of The Flash, but they are certainly at home in Detective Comics, that’s for sure. Bullock continues to take center stage as the Aguila murder case and the “Icarus” storyline heads toward its conclusion. Batman has never looked cooler with Manapul’s artwork and the city of Gotham has never been dirtier and grimier with the people written by Buccellato. It’s certainly nice to see creators who understand and embrace that yes, Batman is awesome and no, he doesn’t have superpowers. But more importantly, he is the world’s foremost detective. Period. And it’s also nice to see that though Bullock may be a piece of shit now, he wasn’t always. And he still does have what it takes to save certain aspects of the city from itself. He was former heavy-weight boxer. He was also a former crooked cop. He lives alone, with a bunch of cats. And he still believes in chivalry. This quite possibly the best characterization of him we’ve seen in years. The revelation of Annie’s “Daddy” at the end seems like a logical plot twist, albeit an awfully convenient one. And the “bonus material” pages at the end aren’t really a bonus when the book is four bucks. But that fight between Bullock and the Bat? I can’t wait to see where that heads. All in all, a solid read by a great team.
My Rating: 4/5
Batman Eternal #14
And of course, I saved the best for last. The Penguin has always been one of my favorite villains, so seeing James Tynion IV and Jason Fabok (with assistance from Scott Snyder, Ray Fawkes, and Tim Seeley, of course) put him center stage made me just about as happy as could be. The bookending references of Rex “the Lion” Calabrese, with both Gordon and Cobblepot, set up the issue nicely. The blackmail of Mayor Hady by Jason Bard was excellent, the soul-searching of Jim Gordon was heartbreaking, and the portrayal of a Penguin scorned was absolutely terrifying. So when Vicki Vale and the G. C. P. D. arrive at the scene and both photograph and arrest Cobblepot and Carmine Falcone amidst their battle to the death, it’s not surprising that Batman is paying a visit to Gordon at Blackgate, letting him know that he might actually be more valuable inside Blackgate, what with the new Commissioner and the entire Gotham Gang War population joining him soon. Red Robin and Harper Row get a couple pages of silliness, and we see the Scarecrow scared out of his mind after witnessing the horrors of Joker’s Daughter inside Arkham Asylum, but the truly great scene is between Bard and Batman on top of the G. C. P. D. roof. Batman knows that the Penguin was tipped off and he knows that Gordon trusts Bard, but he also knows that Bard is not Gordon and their temporary alliance might not end as well as Jason intends. Jason dismisses him, but Batman gets the final word because, well, he leaves mid sentence. Dark times are coming to Gotham. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. This series is starting to come into its own quite nicely. And as a final note, I’d like to point out that the Dustin Nguyen cover is quite possibly one of the best Penguin covers of all time.
My Rating: 5/5
And there it is. Agree? Disagree? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below. See you next Baturday!