The big two comic book companies pump out a lot of books every week. Some are great, some stink, and depending on your weekly comic book budget you don’t want to be picking up the stinkers. Each week Comic Booked will fill you in on DC’s top three books that are deserving of your hard earned cash. Without further ado, here are the comics from DC for the week of December 16th, 2015 that I think have won a place in your long boxes.
Batman & Robin Eternal #11
Despite less then stellar sales Batman & Robin Eternal has been a pretty consistent and decent book through it’s eleven issues to date. For those that have passed on the series I promise you you’re missing out on a good read, and DC Comics hasn’t been producing many good stories since Convergence. That being said the story does make use of the post-Convergence editorial edict that supports “cannon over continuity” and digs deep into Batman’s comic history to anchor this story to the first encounter Batman and Robin had with Dr. Crane, the Scarecrow. From there Snyder et al weave a sinister story about an Eastern European crime ring specializing in creating child soldiers out of the orphans of Prague, and from which Batman may have obtained one of his Robin’s post-Dick Grayson.
Over eleven issues the books authors have worked hard at wringing out as much suspense as uncertainty as they can regarding the identity of this child, this would-be Robin. Chronologically speaking we all know – or at least we think we know – that it should be Jason Todd as he was the Robin that preceded Dick Grayson. However, if this is the case Jason Todd has no recollection, or at least none that he’s letting on, and what Batman’s motives are behind seeking a child from this criminal organization are no less clear. If anything the writers are striving to cast a sinister, or at least amoral motive to Batman’s actions. Finally, readers are treated to Cassandra Cain’s origin which is more or less the same as her original pre-New 52 origin story but this time it’s tied into this ring of child soldiers that the mysterious “Mother” is creating.
That the mystery is only starting to thicken is fine for a weekly series now eleven weeks in to its reported twenty-six issue run. There are clear signs that the story is about to enter it’s second act and with it the threads of the plot will start to come together. That being said the narrative has unfolded slowly, at times it has felt like entire issues have passed and nothing really happened with the plot other then to move some characters across the board.
This is a common complaint for weekly series and I get it. It’s hard to invest in a book every week when at the end of each issue you scratch your head at the fact that over the course of twenty-three pages not a lot happens. There is no guarantee that the pay off at the end – when the story can be read as a whole from beginning to ending – will be worth it, but in my opinion DC is getting better at these weekly series. If you compare Batman Eternal to the first major attempted DC made at the weekly format – 52 – you can see that they get how to do these stories much better now. Of course, DC knew how to tell stories in a weekly format long before Didio arrived and acted like he created the concept. Seek out the Superman titles from the early 1990’s under the editorial direction of Mike Carlin to see how exciting and engaging stories are told in a weekly format.
However, I digress, Batman & Robin Eternal is shaping up to be as good as Batman Eternal was, if not better, and so I urge those that have invested in the single issues to keep with it. It appears that Snyder et al are attempting to figure out the history of the Robins, something that has been in question since the launch of the New 52, namely, how the hell has Bruce Wayne, a man barely thirty, had time to have had three four Robins? How is it possible that Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, and Tim Drake, all roughly aged between the mid-teens to early twenties, have been the wards of Bruce Wayne and trained enough to be Batman’s ally? And where did Bruce find the time to have a son, Damian, and train him to be Robin as well? In the span of five years from the beginning of the New 52’s time line? Snyder is clearly attempting to retcon the Robin history to make it all work.
Whether he will succeed or not makes this series worth buying on it’s own, and why it gets my nod for one of DC’s top three comics this week.
Justice League United #16
This is a book that I wrote off long, long ago. Even though the team’s origin grew somewhat organically from the conclusion and fall out of “Forever Evil” I never felt like Jeff Lemire got a good handle on the diverse – and odd – range of characters that he cobbled together. I jumped off during the first story arc because I didn’t feel like Lemire was able to make the eclectic group of heroes gel. While I stand by that assertion I hear that this is somewhat unfortunate because I’m told “The Infinitus Saga”, Lemire’s second and final arc on the title was pretty epic and redeemed his run. I’m man enough to admit when I acted like a petulant fan boy and so I’ll be going back to read this arc over the Christmas break. That being said I’ve not really kept tabs on what Jeff Parker and Travel Foreman have been doing with the books since taking over from Lemire in July’s post-Convergence issue eleven.
I had the opportunity to borrow a friend’s copy of JLU 14 and 15 but the time traveling, alternate dimension thing was either too much for my brain to deal with or genuinely confusing but that being said there was an energy to the books that made the story feel vibrant and entertaining even if I wasn’t keep pace with it. Whether it was me or a poorly executed plot didn’t matter as I felt like Parker’s ability to tell an imaginative story was obvious and I told myself once this dimension/time travel thing he was doing was over I would check out his next book.
That brings me to JLU 16, a largely self contained story featuring at it’s core Adam and Alana Strange, although they are supported by a cast comprised on Equinox, Animal Man, and Star Girl. There is a small reference to issue 10 bridging “The Infinitus Saga” with this issue but it’s a tangential reference at best and not important to enjoy this issue. The team is faced with dealing with stray anti-matter that is headed to Earth, the result of previous efforts to save the planet Thanagar. The anti-matter referred to as breakers takes root in a small western Connecticut town taking a familiar form of a previously demolished house. Inside the structure are individual visions aimed at each hero, the most interesting of them involving Equinox.
The tale is pure comic book fun, it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it was fun to read and of the better books DC put out this week.
Travel Foreman’s art work is excellent and brings a lot of energy to the book. I’m not an art critic, I buy comics based mostly on the writer’s ability to tell a good story, so I can’t really nail down in words what it is about Foreman’s art that grabs me. Suffice to say I know what I like when I see it, and I like this. His treatment of Animal Man is of the best I’ve ever seen. Foreman gives Animal Man … well … an animal quality. He’s mean, angry, and scary in a way that evokes Wolverine more then the Animal Man DC fans are accustomed to. Foreman makes me want to see more Animal Man; I’ve never wanted to see more Animal Man before. The colors used by Hi-Fi Colour Design Company are pitch perfect using lots of pastel toned colours which work really well overall, but especially in the scenes on Rann.
I think Parker and Foreman are on to something with the core group of heroes they’ve assembled here, it’s just too bad that this is the books final issue. They’ve done better work with a scaled down roster compared to what Lemire started with. It clear that these guys seem to have figured out how to make this eclectic group of characters work as individuals and as members of the team. Justice League United is well worth your attention this month. If Justice League United wasn’t being axed by DC I could see it making it’s way on to my pull list with this creative team. The best I can do now is acknowledge their very good and place it among DC’s top three comics this week.
We Are Robin #7
This is the fourth part of the event “Robin Wars” that is working it’s way through a number of the Batman family of books. If you haven’t been following “Robin Wars” I would strongly suggest you pick up the first three installments found in Robin Wars #1, Grayson #15, and Batman: Detective Comics #47. You would also do fine picking up the two tie-ins Gotham Academy 13, and Red Hood – Arsenal #7, which are noteworthy because of how closely they actually tie-in into the main story. They aren’t essential, but they aren’t a waste of money like, say, the “Darkseid Wars” tie-ins were.
I’m not sure what my final verdict on “Robin Wars” will be but so far, so good. This is the first time to my recollection that Robin has been given a dedicated event, and while the state of Robin in the DCU is a point of contention for me (Tim Drake was the Robin I grew up with and will always be the one true Robin in my mind), this series is building a really engaging story uniting the wave of teenage vigilantes comprising the “We Are Robin” movement with the authentically trained Robins fighting against a conspiracy to arrest anyone wearing the famous “R” that involves Gotham City’s politicians and the mysterious and deadly Court of Owls. The series is also teasing some possibly big conclusion that suggests the Court of Owls is looking to return Grayson to the role of Nightwing. Why, and whether or not they’ll succeed is obviously all unknown but if you’ve been hating the treatment DC has given to Dick since “Forever Evil” this series may give you all some hope that his Secret Agent days are numbered.
Truth be told there isn’t a lot that happens in We Are Robin #7. Grayson and Jim Gordan find confirmation of the Court of Owl’s involvement and the Robins make a move to escape the prison they’ve been kept in. That’s about it, but with little narrative to move forward writer Lee Bermejo keeps the script well paced, while Carmine Di Giandomeico’s gritty, indie-ish pencils help flesh out the limited narrative making it feel more robust then it actually is.
Ordinarily this wouldn’t make my top three list but I do believe in this series. I think that it has a lot of potential and I feel like it is living up to its promise so far. If you’ve been holding out, now is the time to jump on as next month the second act is set to begin and it’ll fast become too costly to bother getting the issues and instead wait for the trade. This has been a decent opening act, pick up the four issues when you’re at your local comic shop next, and then stick around for the rest of the event. I don’t think we’re going to be disappointed when it’s all over, and for that, “Robin Wars” and We Are Robin #7 makes it onto the list of DC’s top comics this week.