BatWatch Review: Batman #24 - Dark City

Dark City

Batman #24 is supposed to be an amazing triumph from Snyder and Capullo, but I'm not so sure I'll agree since most people have been keen on this entire arc, and I've not really been impressed. Clearly, I'm getting to the game late with this review, but I am excited to finally have the chance to read this landmark issue for myself and see what has captured everybody's attention.

Is Batman #24 truly a triumph or is it just another let down? 

In this issue, Batman debuts in Gotham but Bruce Wayne exposes the Red Hood Gang's plot. 

Batman Comics Work Better with Batman

The first few issues of this arc felt a bit random to me. The Red Hood Gang had an unclear origin, and Bruce's return to Gotham was oddly bypassed as we first saw him only after his war on crime had already begun. Then, we saw Bruce fumbling for several issues which didn't really satisfy me as the story seemed more caught up in Bruce's external preoccupations rather than his internal struggle.

Here, we finally see Bruce evolved to the role of Batman, and I finally feel at peace. I'm still not crazy about the first few issues of the arc, but now that we've arrived, I can sit back and just enjoy this as a fun story that happens to take place in Bruce's early years.   

The best thing about this issue is clearly the constant nods to past Batman works. There is no denying that Snyder is a true fan, and he makes great use of his Batman nerd knowledge here. It seems you cannot turn a page without stumbling into another callback to the mythos of Batman, and that's a good feeling.  

I'm not going to recount the story since it's likely that everyone reading this has already read it for themselves, but I did want to dive into a few spoilers and share some  very quick thoughts.

(Spoilers until Conclusion) 

The death of Phillip Kane felt a bit forced. The relationship between he and Bruce never quite clicked, and the idea that Bruce would still be fond of him after Phillip admitted to being involved with the Red Hood Gang is stupid. This was just another, "Someone Bruce knows has to die to give this scene poignancy," moment.  

I loved the handling of The Red Hood's...death? The way things were kept ambiguous and convoluted is the perfect way to express the mystery of Joker's involvement at ACE Chemicals. This seems like the kind of case Bruce could research for years without fully understanding.  

The bait and switch from Red Hood to Riddler being the big baddie for the series was handled very well. It's about time Riddler get his proper moment in the sun as one of Gotham's baddest bad boys, and I look forward to seeing him menace Gotham in the future. I'm guessing Riddler is using the same Wayne tech to blackout Gotham that Bruce himself used to make the Bay symbol blackout.   

Conclusion 9/10

It's a very good story that should please just about anybody. There were a couple of off moments, (Bruce survives a huge explosion from point blank range...again, Batman turns off power to vital Gotham needs injuring countless people just to make a statement, Bruce is a bit too chatty) but as a whole, this was a great read.

BatWatch Review #23.4 - Bane

This is just a super short review since I'm catching up on a month old comic.  

Without question, this Bane issue is missing something vital for a solo story. Specifically, it's missing a coherent vision of the Back Breaker from Santa Prisca. I think I get what Tomasi was striving to present; a Bane existing somewhere between his own good and bad instincts, but it came off as a character with no central motivation. He is worshiped as a dictator, a folk hero or even a god, but he does nothing to earn the love he is given and provides only hostility in return for praise, so it becomes impossible to view this story, which is all about Bane as this important figure to his people, in a serious light.

Conclusion 5/10

 

BatWatch Review: Batman #23.3 - The Penguin

Bullies

I am a big Penguin fan. As all the other criminals of Gotham are set up on their way to power and knocked back down by Batman, but Penguin remains a near constant threat by running his illegal businesses under the table and refusing to get his hands dirty. If there ever were a master of crime in Gotham, it would be the bird who almost never does time for his multitude of offenses, and I look forward to seeing him in his own issue.  

Does Penguin #1 underscore all that is great about the fine feathered fiend or is this story about as fun as being splattered by a pigeon? 

In this issue, Penguin deals with multiple threats in his own unique way. 

A Tale of Two Penguins

This issue feels like two separate stories combined into one. The first story revolved around Penguin disposing of some hustlers that were stealing from the casino while the second deals with the governor threatening to stop all of Penguin's operations. One of these stories was great and the other way just typical comic book fluff.

The vastly superior story is the latter where Penguin deals with the threat of the governor in a manner which is clever, somewhat original and completely believable. By using something other than blunt force to deal with a situation, Penguin set himself up to defuse a threat and gain a powerful new ally...even if things did not work out quite as planned. Seeing Penguin be completely ruthless while keeping his hands clean and maintaining the appearance of gentlemanly conduct is exactly what sets Penguin apart from the dozens of other criminal masterminds in Gotham, and this latter story struck that note perfectly.

The former story had Penguin deal with punks by killing them which makes me want to yawn just thinking about it. The issue would have been much better if Penguin could have handled the cheaters in a less direct manner. 

Conclusion 8/10

Despite my disappointment with the first half of the issue, it is well drawn enough to make it's typical nature fun to behold and the second half makes up for the first half's lack of originality. This should be good fun for Penguin fans.

More Reviews

Batman 23.3 - The Penguin  

Detective Comics #23.3 - Scarecrow 

Batman and Robin #23.3 - Ra's Al Ghul 

The Dark Knight #23.3 - Clayface 

Teen Titans #23.2 - Deathstroke  

Batman '66 #12 - The Clock King Strikes 

Legends of the Dark Knight #66 - #68 - I...Robot

BatWatch Review #23.2 - The Riddler

Solitaire

The Riddler finally gets his own comic. I'm sure his ego will be sated, but will our sense of entertainment be fulfilled? Riddler is one of my favorite villains, but I'll admit, I have some insecurity about how a solo title could work for him. He's always been a character defined by his ability to make heroes squirm and push themselves mentally. Without a hero to foil, how will he entertain himself and how will he be entertaining?

Riddle me this! Can the Quizzical Inquisitor carry his own issue or does he lose all his charm without the Bat?

In this issue, we see Riddler take the Wayne building floor by floor in attempt to prove...well, that would be telling.  

What makes the Riddler the Riddler?

His riddles of course! Scott Snyder (former writer of Vertigo's American Vampire and current writer of Batman and Superman Unchained) knows this and puts them front and center. The first page lays out five riddles and essentially challenging readers to figure them out. If you fail to prove your self as smart as Edward Nigma, no worries. As usual, The Riddler will make sure to taunt you with the answer when it's too late.  

It's a clever layout for the story since it gives readers some foreshadowing yet not enough to tip Snyder's hand. Personally, I only figured out the most obvious of the clues on the first page, but I put together all but one right before they were revealed as the context for their...implementation became obvious. I especially liked the Riddle that was "direct and worse" since I felt a real since of pride when I deciphered that one, and of course, that is the whole fun of riddles, and it's nice that Snyder paced things so that readers had a real chance to think through the puzzles.

At the same time, one of the riddles was pretty lame. It fit a very specific situation which could not possibly be deciphered by anyone until you saw it with your own eyes, so I call foul.

In interviews I've read with Scott Snyder, I saw him mention that Riddler was going to have a complete disregard for any human life that did not meet him on his intellectual level, and though I certainly believe Riddler would have disdain for those people, I was not sure I completely liked the idea of him being a cold blooded killer. I think my ideal Riddler would act more out of a sense of boredom with the mundane than animosity for the simple, but I'll admit that this interpretation was still striking.

Jeremy Hauns does a great job on the art, and he seems to be aspiring to mimic Greg Capullo's style especially in regards to Mr. E. Nygma's look. However since Hauns is the new artist for Batwoman, I can't help but think that this style will not blend at all with Batwoman's previous artists, and I wonder if he will be able to adopt a style mimicking them or if this is all he has on tap. If so, it will be okay, but it would be nice if Batwoman could keep the visual vibe that went a long way to set her series apart from the crowd.

Conclusion 9/10

There is a lot to love here. Despite being more sociopathic than usual, Riddler retains his whimsy, yet his darker nature makes him a little frightening which is not what I typically associate with the character. Nonetheless, this is a great Riddler story, and I don't see any of his fans being disappointed.  

More Reviews:

Batman #23.2 - The Riddler 

Detective Comics #23.2 - Harley Quinn 

Batman and Robin #23.2 - The Court of Owls 

The Dark Knight #23.2 - Mr. Freeze 

Teen Titans #23.2 - Trigon  

Batman '66 #10 - #11 - The Hatter Takes the Crown  

Li'l Gotham #14 - Labor Day

 

BatWatch Review: Batman #23.1 - Joker

For all of today's reviews, I'm going to try to keep things short as possible because I have six long issues to review tonight, so we're going to skip the intro and dive right into this bad boy.

Torn

I'm severely torn on this one. I was enjoying this issue for the most part until I got to the end and there was a moment that made me kind of flinch. It's kind of like watching an ice skating performance where things are going pretty well and then all of a sudden the skater take a bad fall and slides across the ice on her face. 

On the "going pretty well" front, this issue is billed as a Joker story, and Kubert (former artist for Batman and X-Men and current writer of Batman and cover artist for Superman, Earth 2, Vertigo's The Wake and Gemstone's Oversized Comic Book Price Guide) nails him. His additude is perfect being able to engender sympathy, laughter, and hatred all at the same time. It's a wicked story which will probably have you adoring the Joker on one level or another.  

Also, the art is very good especially when focused on Joker.  

Moving towards more sketchy calls, this issue delivers another Joker origin story, and I can see how this might upset some fans. Joker's origin story is like the Holy Grail in that nobody ever finds it, but the beauty of the Joker narrative that has taken shape over the modern age is that it is generally accepted that any Joker origin could easily be a complete load of crap dreamed up or deceptively presented by Joker's evil, ingenious mind, so personally, I don't mind a new origin too much. As an origin, it's pretty simple yet brutal in respect to the horror of Joker's supposed childhood, yet I do kind of like it because the origin has an over the top vibe even for comics. It's not normal child abuse but really extreme, erratic, irrational child abuse which is only funny because it seems exactly like the kind of load of crap Joker would make up for himself just like his "origins" in The Dark Knight.  

If this was the only hang up for the issue, then I would be pretty well down with this story. However, it has some other issues.

This is just as much a Jackanapes story as it is a Joker story, and because of this, I'll bet you anything Jackanapes will have a significant role in Damian: Son of Batman written by Kubert. I don't have a problem with Jackanapes getting the spotlight, but Kubert ignores one of the most pressing questions of his origin. How does Jackanapes become sentient? Apes can easily eat at the dinner table if they are so trained. Not so much can they work the jet packs and build super weapons. (of course, I might be underestimating them. Has anybody ever given an ape a jet pack?)  Since this is a Jackanapes origin, this is a huge aspect to ignore.

The story also contrasts the upbringing of Jackanapes to the supposed upbringing of Joker, but the two stories don't really mesh together. At first, we see clear ties between the two, but the stories start diverging substantially, and the comparison no longer really works at some point.  

(Spoilers) Finally, the end fight scene has Joker and Jackanapes turning their victims into weird ape like things. This is the face plant moment. It's not explained at all, but I'm guessing that a bomb they threw was supposed to have a gas that triggered the change, but the art does not convey that, and it's a pretty big jump to make anyway. The rest of the issue is rushed to a conclusion, and it really left me wondering what I just read

Conclusion 6/10

I think the main problem here is that Kubert tried to stuff too much in this one issue. Consequently, nothing felt fully realized and a lot of stuff felt random. If you just want to see some classic Joker action, then this will scratch your itch, but if you want a coherent story, you can do better.

Recent Reviews

Forever Evil #1 - Nightfall

Batman Black and White #1 - Don't Know Where, Don't Know When

Batman #23.1 - Joker 

Detective Comics 23.1 - Poison Ivy  

Batman and Robin #23.1 - Two-Face 

The Dark Knight #23.1 - The Ventriloquist

 

 

BatWatch Review: Batman #23

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Secret City

It's not completely fair to judge a work of literature piecemeal, but in comics, you have little choice. Everybody who buys monthlies picks up an issue and has to decide whether they want the next month's adventure. I feel I can at least make a decent judgment after reading, for instance, the first issue of a three issue arc, but it's a different situation with mega arcs like Zero Year. This story is spanning a whopping eleven issues. (I actually saw one source say it was now thirteen issues, but I have not seen that confirmed and it could easily have been a mistake) Trying to make a judgment based off only the first two would be like only judging Batman Begins off the first twenty minutes of the movie. We are still in the very early stages.

That being said, I have not been overly impressed with this arc for reasons I've discussed previously. By the time this third issue is read, I feel like we should have a decent feel for what this arc is doing. I'm not saying this issue is going to make or break the arc for me, but I am saying it needs to deliver something with less focus on spectacle and more focused on Bruce if it wants to keep my attention.

Does Batman #23 put Zero Year on a firm foundation or is this series, like Gotham, doomed to dark days in the future?

In this issue, the Red Hood Gang beats up Bruce Wayne and Riddler and Phillip Kane come head to head.  

What the Crap Was That?

Okay, I nearly went off on this issue. Thankfully, I took lots of time to think about things and put some stuff together, but there is one scene in here which, if you do not remember important pieces of information from previous issues, will really confuse the heck out of you. Normally, I'd save this part of the review for later, but since it is in the forefront of my mind, we're going to hit it first.

(Spoilers for Section) 

Snyder (former writer of Vertigo's American Vampire and current writer of Batman, Superman Unchained and Vertigo's Long Road to Hell) said that the study scene where Batman sees the bat and realizes he should use that as his totem would be different, and boy, he wasn't kidding. I went through this entire scene confused and ended up boiling mad by the end.  

In case you haven't read the issue but decided to read this part of the review, Bruce Wayne goes to the study after being sewn up by Alfred, and he has a conversation with the statue of his father asking his spirit for guidance. He wants to know how he should wage his war. It's very similar to the scene from Year One up until this point. Well, he picked up this small, baseball sized globe from some keepsake chest and all of a sudden, it starts glowing and showing the images of the Bat Cave and bats all over the place. Finally, the globe breaks, the visions disappear, and Batman rings the bell for Alfred just like in Year One.

As I was reading it, I had a couple of thoughts. A. Bruce has been hit so hard that his brain is addled and he thinks he sees things that are not there. B. We are seeing Bruce's imagination come to life as the concept of Batman suddenly dawned on him. Then I turned the page and saw bats going crazy and flying through Bruce, and I got annoyed that once again we had the flash of metaphoric spectacle over substance. Then I look at the bottom of the page where the crystal ball breaks and everything is back to normal, and I lose my mind with frustration. Is this some sort of magic 8 ball that Bruce just randomly found? Is magic now a part of Batman's origin? Is this just some random symbolic nothing inserted into the story?

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Thankfully, I believed that this had to be beneath Snyder and I had to be missing something, and I went back and skimmed through the past two issues. The black ball Bruce was holding was the image scanner that Bruce had taken with him in the cave as a child. Okay, I thought. That somewhat explains why the crystal ball reminded Bruce of the cave, but Bruce still seems to be losing his freakin' mind since he's acting as if he really sees this stuff. Finally, I put together that this was not only a 3D image recorder but also a 3D image projector. What we were seeing was the study overlaid with Bruce's recorded images from his fall in the cave, and I have to say, this was a stroke of genius on Snyder's part. The visuals are amazing, and it seems like the right mix of logic and fate to strike the proper tone for Batman's revelation. There are some things about the old version which this one lacks, and you can debate whether this is better or worse, but this certainly is a cool way to redo the scene.

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That being said, I think Snyder made a crucial mistake in his construction of this scene. I don't believe for a second that I was the only one to have trouble with this. There is no reference to the image recorder in this issue, and even if you do remember, it's not exactly intuitive that an experimental device would have a playback mode. If we want to get really technical, how long does the battery life for this device last? I mean, it's has no apparent battery hatch. It can hold a charge for fifteen years? Still, I'm being nitpicky. Another thing that did confuse me is the color the sphere glows. It's not really glowing the same color as the room nor do any of the images seem to be emanating from it. 

All of this would be fine if Snyder had simply let us see the device, even for a single panel, at work earlier in the arc. He could have made it clear in a multitude of ways, but I will not take the time to  list them all. The scene was cool, but there needed to be something establishing that the sphere was acting as a projector, and there was not.  

Aside from All That... 

Now that I've spent the majority of the issue talking about one single scene, let's talk about the rest of the issue. Really, there is not much to it.  

Batman gets beat up. Yay?  

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I did enjoy Red Hood's little spiel about how the Wayne's death affected Gotham, but really, why is he talking to Bruce at all? It's unnecessary. Furthermore, he planted a freaking bomb in Bruce's penthouse. Why does he even think Bruce is alive. EOnce more, why is Bruce alive? We saw him at the end of the last issue walking into the house being surprised that someone made a party for him, but does that automatically translate to bomb? Of course not. You can see in last issue's final Bruce Wayne panel that there is a shield in the background, but if Bruce somehow found the bomb, wouldn't it make sense to run out the door rather to run for a shield?

This scene is stupid.  

Also, we have the freaking time frame jump again. We see the battle with the Red Hood Gang mixed up with Bruce running home. Why? What did this add? Nothing, right? Does anybody feel like this added anything?  

At least the scene with Riddler and Phillip Kane delivered. I still would prefer the idea of Nygma turning to a life of crime because of his ego rather than being a killer from the beginning, but this is a minor point, and it's great seeing Riddler in fine form. I have to point out one thing though; Phillip Kane's crazy difficult password is Kane? Really? 

Bat Droppings 7/10

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BatWatch Review: Batman Annual #2

BATMAN_ANN2_ra4ejm6iuw_.jpg

Cages

I have to say that I'm pretty interested in this issue. First and foremost, we get to see the first work of a new writer, Marguerite Bennett writing alongside the famous Scott Snyder.  (former writer of Vertigo's American Vampire and current writer of Batman, Superman Unchained and Vertigo's the Wake and Long Road to Hell) Wetting my appetite even further, we have a promising preview which shows a few well written pages which include the reveal of Batman committing himself to Arkham Asylum. Finally, we have some intrigue with rumors of a character called Anchoress who is supposed to be the first inmate of Arkham which is quite an accomplishment since Arkham, if I am not mistaken, was established over a hundred years ago.  

Since Marguerite Bennett follows me on Twitter the question for this review is whether I will be hoping real hard she doesn't notice my review or whether I will gladly send it to her praising her for her first foray into comics?  

In this issue, Batman tests Arkham's new security measures and Anchoress finds someone to listen to her tale of woe.  

Surprisingly Tasty

This was quite the yummy treat. Now only was it sweet, but it also had a lot of meat seasoned well and grilled to perfection.  

I'm not sure what's up with the food references. Perhaps my subconscious is telling me its time to eat.  

I haven't been a huge fan of most of the Bat Family annuals. Many of them seem to take one story that would fit nicely into a single issue and expand it by adding a bunch of unnecessary fluff.

This issue stands head and shoulders above those.  

On of the primary strengths of this issue comes from having an ever evolving narrative. Rather than spelling out the central conflict from page one, the story kept things ambiguous. Though you understand the smaller conflicts, you never really get a clear view of where things were going until the third act.  

The story starts with Batman testing the new wing of the Arkham facilities, Tartarus. (which in Greek mythology was known as the deepest, darkest place in the underworld reserved for the Titans of old) I would not have minded this part of the story sticking around for even longer because it is easily the best Batman: Master Escape Artist story I've read in quite some time. I often complain about how ridiculous it is for Bruce to have exactly the right tool for every job, but in this case, he had an excuse to be prepared. Anytime he did use something to aid his "escape," he explained why various inmates might have access to similar types of resources. Also, Batman didn't really stray outside his usual toolbox of utilities. Everything he used could easily fit on a utility belt with lots of room to spare. Personally, I find it more impressive when Batman makes do with what he has and does not pull out his magic skeleton key to Arkham from his utility belt.

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Rather than letting this part of the story play out, (and I believe that story could have actually been expanded into at least one full issue) the story segways into a tale of the presumed villain Ancoheress, who succeeds in bringing a fresh take to Batman. She does not seem to be an evil character in the traditional sense, yet she does have a bone to pick with Batman. In short, she feels that her treatment at Arkham has been neglected. After all, Arkham is supposed to be a place that treats the mentally ill rather than a place that merely detains the homidical, and after the rise of the Bat, nobody much cared anymore about the humble old lady in need.

The only real criticism I have of this issue is that there were about five pages dedicated to a, "Let's drudge through Batman's most tragic moments in a LSD inspired fashion." This is not a bad idea in and of itself, but this is probably the fifth or sixth version of this kind of scene in the past year. We all get that Batman's life sucks. No more "trips" down memory lane for a while, please.  

To be fair, this trip actually fairs better than most. I think this one actually hits some emotional nerves because Bruce's reaction which was more complex than mere stoicism or rage. Also, they included Damian on one page and had him ask some questions of Bruce that really tear at the heart.

Bat Droppings

1. This issue is billed as being part of Zero Year, but it actually only has a flashback to Zero Year. I wish they had made that clear up front because I spent the first half of the book counting up continuity errors before I realized that this was set in the modern day. I do still have one major continuity error thought that I noticed. Jeremiah Arkham is still running Arkham! Isn't he Black Mask? Wasn't he just shown incarcerated in Arkham in both Catwoman and Jonah Hex?  Are you looking for any new editors, DC? I'm available!

2. Border is a nice lens through which we view the story. He's the perfect sounding board for Anchoress, and he has quite a few worthwhile things to say himself. It would be nice if Arkham actually helped someone every once and a while. It could actually be the makings of a great ongoing series.  

3. Mahreen is also pretty cool take on a character. The easy way to create a simple character dynamic for Border would have been to make Mahreen a tough hardened character, but though less naive, Mahreen isn't really that jaded, and I found it refreshing for the story to stay away from the easy caricatures.  

4. On page five, why is Clayface in two cells at once? Still available, DC! 

5. I actually like the security watchtower setup in Arkham's Tartarus wing. As long as the structure was made out of very sturdy and secure material, it would give guards a good vantage point to keep an eye on the prisoners.  

6. Making the entire Tartarus wing digitally controlled might remove the human fallibility from the every day execution of prison duties, but it would also make the entire wing potentially hackable unless it was controlled on a completely independent network.

7. The Anchoress might have some limited interest in psychological healing, but it certainly is not her main interest. If Anchoress really wanted to get better, she would not have had four generations of doctors telling her she was getting better. At some point, she would be well. It seems what Anchoress really wants is attention and sympathy.  

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8. Anchoress's powers are pretty typical sci-fi comic book stuff in regards to her quantum tunneling. For the record, quantum tunneling only applies to the world of quantum physics and not regular old physics, but taking something that does exist and tweaking the rules slightly is a pretty well established way to get superpowers in comic books, so who's complaining? (Spoilers)  However even accepting this premise, her ability to phase through objects does not really lead to her ability to monkey with Bruce's mind. Even if she could target the exact right part of Bruce's brain and push part of her physical form through it, it does not follow that she would somehow psychically know Bruce's thoughts.

Conclusion 9/10

I'm glad to say that the first woman to co-write a Batman comic has done a very good job with it. Perhaps if she can stay on this level, Bennett can one day be the first woman to solo write Batman. Until that day comes, Batman fans can content themselves with knowing they have a good annual worthy of being added to their collection.

More Batman Reviews:

Batman, Incorporated #13 

Batman Annual #2 

Detective Comics Annual #2

 

BatWatch Review: Batman #22

Secret City

Images will (hopefully) be added soon. 

It's time once more for Zero Year.

I was a bit underwhelmed by the last issue. We are supposed to be experiencing a brand new Batman origin, yet instead of a story really exploring how Bruce became Batman, we had a bunch of scattered moments with no obvious connection. Sure, we saw a little of Batman's battle with the Red Hood and we saw random bits of Bruce's past, but what is the common theme bringing it all together? How long has Bruce even been back in Gotham? How did Bruce first encounter Red Hood? What's the game plan of either Batman or Red Hood in this conflict? We keep on seeing the strings in Edward Nygma's office tying together different concepts in a web of...something, but what is at the center of this web? I didn't have a good idea of where this arc is going in this first issue except that it apparently ends in Armageddon for Gotham.

On the positive front, there were some cool moments between characters, and the battle between Batman and Red Hood was kind of cool. As usual, Capullo's (former penciler for Image's Spawn and current cover artist for Batman) art was great, but still, I feel like the first issue was missing something. I'm not against this series, but it has not yet won my endorsement.

Does Batman #22 provide some clarity for the story and establish a firm direction for the series or is this trip down memory lane full of potholes? 

In this issue, we see another flashback to Bruce's past while in the present Bruce regroups after a conflict with Red Hood goes poorly.  

Love and Hate

If nothing else, this series is really crystallizing what I love and hate about Scott Snyder's (former writer of Vertigo's American Vampire and current writer of Batman, Superman Unchained and Vertigo's the Wake and Long Road to Hell) writing of Batman.  

On the positive front, I love Snyder's dialogue. Quite frankly, I'd be perfectly happy if her wrote Batman comics with no action whatsoever and just focused on Bruce Wayne and the rest of the family interacting with one another. This issue features a host of memorable conversations from Bruce's overt verbal jousting with Red Hood to his more subtle fencing with Riddler to his cutting dialogue with Alfred. All of these scenes served to clarify who Bruce Wayne is as a person, and again, I could read these types of conversations for hours.

There is room for criticism in all these scenes. Bruce was perhaps to brash with Red Hood. He might have overplayed his hand with Nygma. His interaction with Alfred is nearly a complete 180 from their normal interaction, but I would defend all these potential problems by pointing out that this is a young, inexperienced Bruce Wayne who is not as "mature" as he is commonly portrayed.

On the flip side, I am growing tired of the way everything Snyder does seems to be so overstated, and this is manifested in a number of ways. The entire conflict with Red Hood on the blimp was pretty much unnecessary. Ignoring for the most part that we do not know the motivation for either Bruce or the Hood being on this blimp, I just didn't see much value in the overly long scene. Red Hood makes all these grand gestures and over-the-top moves, but if his goal was to take Penguin's gang over by killing him, (which seems to be the only plausible explanation) then his presence there is rather unnecessary. He had inside people in the gangs, so why not do a quick assassination and be done with it?

I suppose you could say that Red Hood is flamboyant and likes his moments in the spotlight, but I still have another gripe about this scene. Bruce escapes by jumping out a blimp window and using magic boots to walk across the underside. Why does Batman have magic boots with no explanation? I've complained about this type of thing before, but I'm telling you, giving Bats the exact right tool for every situation that he could not reasonably foresee is no better than giving him Bat-Shark-Repellent. It takes away from the idea of him being just a man and makes him laughable at worst and Mr. Gadget at best.  

This attempt to take everything to the next level continues throughout the issue. We get a remix of the old, "Bruce fail down a well," scene, but this time there is a lamp involved which...really adds nothing. I assume it was an attempt to make things look cooler, but in my mind, the cool part of this scene in Year One (I'm ninety-five percent the original was in Year One. Apologies if I am mistaken) was the simplicity of a child's fear. It does not need to be dramatic. The terror of the bat does not need any back light.

(Spoilers) The end was also a moment of flashy nonsense. The Riddler's conversation with Bruce was amazing, but it seems rather pointless. What did Nygma accomplish be informing Bruce that his uncle was running guns. Nygma knew Wayne was about to die, supposedly, so I see no possible angle that Nygma could have been playing. Also, Red Hood brings a host of bad guys to the street outside Wayne's residence just to watch a bomb go off? For what purpose? Backing up even further, what benefit does it give to Uncle Kane to bring Bruce into the light just to kill him off immediately thereafter? I cannot see that possibly helping Wayne Enterprises. I can come up with some theories as to his possible motivations, but nothing seems obvious.

In short, these scenes, though at times cool, seem to be there just to be cool and not because they particularly make sense.  

Who Is the Red Hood?

The two obvious suspects that were in mind before the series even began still seem to be the only likely candidates. It could be Riddler or it could be Joker.

Lending credit to the Riddler column, we already know that Riddler is a key player in this story. Also, it appears that there is a rather clear connection drawn between Nygma and the Red Hood Gang by this issue's end. In the same vein, Red Hood definitely has that flair for the theatrical that Riddler has always possessed. It is not enough for Hood to have Penguin killed and seize his assets. Red Hood has to put on a show and let Penguin know just how much more clever he is than everybody else in the room. Of course, Joker has a good bit of theatre in him as well, and he is also notorious for marking his crimes leaving it perfectly clear who was responsible for them. Corpses with hideously smiling faces are a dead giveaway. Also, Red Hood does a fair bit of laughing and gags in his appearance here. "Wait, you forgot your chute!” is very reminiscent of the Clown Prince of Crime. I also found it interesting that Red Hood said that he and Bruce were “Two of a Kind” emphasising those words. Could that be some foreshadowing to Joker's card deck roots? Perhaps.

There is also the possibility of there being an unseen dark horse candidate, but it is clear at the moment that Snyder intends to keep us guessing, and that is a good thing in my view. I like some mystery with my Batman.

That One Time

The backup story in the last issue actually bumped up the overall comic in my view, but this backup did the comic no favours. It involves Bruce training under some escape artist/tech guru, or at least that is what I'm guessing was happening since the Russian trainer's role was never truly explained. Still, this is the least of the story's problems. The big problem was that Bruce had to escape a death trap to pass his final test, and the escape was complete bunk!

First up, Bruce is sealed in an air tight container where he has ten minutes worth of air. He says with breath training, he can make that last an hour. I have no idea if that is plausible, but I'm willing to buy into it. However, it drove me crazy that Bruce lit a match to see where he was...and continued burning it throughout the scene. I get that he would need some light by which to see where he was and take stock of the tools at hand, but as long as he is just pondering, he should really put out the light because his ten minutes of air should have been over pretty quickly with the match burning up all the oxygen.

Second, (Spoilers) this had the biggest load of tech babble I think I've ever heard. Let me get this straight. Bruce took a motor out of one gadget to power his eye-set. Are you telling me the eye-set was designed to run of a motor rather than a battery? If not, how in the world did Bruce adapt the eye-set to accept a new form of power? Next, he used the motor to overcharge the hypersonic radar system to 10,000 decibels. There are too many problems with this to chronicle, but let's just target a couple. First up, a 10,000 decibel sound device would easily be louder than any speaker system ever created. Rock concert level sound is under 140 decibels. Now, Bruce did admit to having a busted ear drum, so you might think this pans out, but actually, the human body dies from the pressure of just 195 decibels, so Bruce only busting an ear drum is pretty impressive considering 10,000 decibels would easily have turned him into human jelly. Sound measurement is a somewhat complicated subject, but suffice to say it does not work the way you might instinctively think it would. A ten decibel increase is enough to make a sound seem twice as loud. Believe it or not, 10,000 decibels is actually the equivalent air pressure force of forty nuclear explosions. That right, Bruce just single-handedly started a nuclear war with Russia using his eye-set speakers. So much for that no killing policy, huh?

Conclusion 6/10

This issue is not completely bad. Capullo's artwork is great as usual. The story does follow a much more reasonable timeline than the last issue. The interaction between Bruce and others is fantastic. However, it feels like a lot of things were thrown in just to try to take everything to the next level, and it's not really necessary. There can be a lot of subtle beauty in small scale conflicts. The emotional battle between Bruce and Alfred is a million times more entertaining to me than a nonsensical escape or a tech heavy fight on a blimp. I just really hope that this arc scales things down a bit in the rest of the arc. Big set piece battles and explosions can be fun sometimes, but they are fun in the way Transformers is fun...in a mindless I just want to watch things blow up kind of way. What people really want to see in this series is how Bruce became Batman, and it seems like all this big scale conflict is obscuring rather than enhancing that story.

BatWatch Review: Batman #21

Screenshot from 2013-06-12 17:29:02.png

Zero Year has finally arrived, and the atmosphere is ripe with mystery. Snyder (former writer for Detective Comics and Vertigo's American Vampire and current writer of Batman, Superman Unchained and Vertigo's The Wake) and Capullo (former penciler for Image's Spawn and current artist for Batman) have promised that they are going to show people this is not the same old story we've heard a million times starting with page one, and I have to admit that simple tease alone has me intrigued, but there are plenty of other things to consider. How will this issue tie in to Batman's Zero Issue? Will it pick up where the other left off? What villain is under the red hood? How does Riddler fit in? What heroes and villains will we see in this story arc, and just what is a “Zero Year” anyway? It's time for that which is hidden to be revealed.

Is Batman #21 a glorious unveiling or does this issue confirm that the end of days draweth nigh?

In this issue, Bruce returns to Gotham and begins to stake off his territory as the protector of Gotham.

Fodder for the Water Cooler

Does anybody really convene around the water cooler any more? Probably not, and unless you work in an office with a disproportionately high amount of comic book nerds, then you would probably never end up discussing this anyway, but for those who like unpacking comic books and speculating on what is happening and what will happen, this delivers plenty of juicy morsels for long discussions.

However, is it good? That's not so clear to me.

Snyder delivered on his promise to make a story that defied expectations, yet I'm not completely sure I liked it. The story jumped around in several different points of Bruce's life, and it simply was not clear when any of these events were taking place. I suppose comparisons to Year One are inevitable, so I may as well begin the comparisons here by saying the jumpy, jumbled nature of this issue stands in stark contrast to the completely chronological and chronicled telling of Miller's (former writer for Daredevil and All-Star Batman and Robin) origin tale. One of the most confusing aspects of this issue is when Bruce first encountered Red Hood. I was under the impression that we saw their first encounter in Zero Issue, but that must not be the case because in this issue Bruce Wayne's return to Gotham is still a secret, and we saw Commissioner Gordon grilling Bruce in Zero Issue, so what happens when again? Overlooking the general lack of a clear timeline, I still feel like I missed a chapter before this issue began. I cannot tell when exactly Bruce is in his career, and quite possibly, we are not yet supposed to know, but I found the lack of clarity a bit off putting.

Screenshot from 2013-06-12 17:31:28.png

Another major issue that rubbed me a little wrong was that this issue started with the ending. (or near to it) In the first few pages, we get a glimpse five months into the future of Gotham where everything has been destroyed, presumably, by Red Hood. The story makes it appears as if this is a post apocalyptic situation on the scale of No Man's Land, and...I find it very difficult to picture how this could come to be. It feels just a little too huge for Gotham to reasonably recover from a problem of this magnitude. Gotham was only restored after No Man's Land when one of the very wealthiest individuals on the planet, Lex Luthor, invested ridiculous sums of money into restoring the city. Is the same sort of situation going to happen again? If it does, then the conclusion will probably feel derivative, and if it does not, then how could Batman fix the apparent end of civilization.

It probably sounds as if I hated the issue which is not at all the case as I will discuss in a moment, but these were the two biggest issues that made me feel uncomfortable with the story and kept me from fully enjoying it.

Bat Droppings

1. As always, Snyder makes dialogue feel as entertaining as any action sequence. Seeing the discussion between Bruce and Alfred, Bruce and Phillip Kane and Kane and his business partner were all as intriguing as the more adventurous moments of the story.

2. Another strong point of the story is the nearly constant teases. You'll be hard pressed to find a single page that does not raise a major question as to where Snyder is going with the story. If you like intrigue in your comics, you should be thrilled.

3. The monster mouth hoodies are a cool design. Every time I see them, I have a moment of “What the crap?” before I realize they are just regular people with odd masks.

4. I'm not sure I've ever seen a Bat crossbow. I suppose with all the Batman comics on the market, it's probably been done, but still, it is interesting. Crossbows are actually rather unwieldy weapons that take much to long to reload, but the novelty goes a long way. I do wonder if there is a reason Bruce broke from his regular weapon choice.

5. The phrase “Would you kindly...” is nearly impossible for me to hear without thinking of Bioshock.

6. Batman's truck escape was cool and somewhat plausible by comics book standards. However, I don't understand how Bruce managed to open the back door of the truck.

7. The censored sign was hilarious, but it also took me out of the flow of the story by reminding me that this is a comic book. I would have preferred they just left it implied or otherwise obscured.

8. The backup feature is a lot of fun though it is a short and straightforward story. It written by Snyder and Tynion IV (current writer of Talon, Red Hood and the Outlaws and Batman) and drawn by Rafael Albuquerque, (former artist on Blue Beetle and Superman/Batman and current artist on Batman and Comedian) and it explains how Bruce Wayne developed his awesome driving skills. It actually works well to give some quick, easy payoff to balance out the ambiguous and lengthy main story.

Screenshot from 2013-06-12 17:34:52.png

9. The Riddler's part in things is quite interesting. I like the idea of Riddler being a bad guy trying to make a semi-honest living as Snyder portrayed him here. However, I'm not sure I like the idea of him being so willing to kill before he engaged in full time criminal activities. I think falling into the temptation to kill would be a more interesting arc for him, but still, I'm very interested in seeing Edward Nygma develop in this arc.

Conclusion 8/10

I could probably write for another hour on this issue because there are so many amazing teases,  (the R cap, the penny, the cave, ect.) but for sake of time, I'll wrap it up here. There are a couple of things that rubbed me the wrong way in this issue, but these things could be smoothed out by the time this arc concludes. Honestly, one issue into an eleven part arc is way too early for me to get a good sense of the big picture, so I really do not feel it is even fair to give a grade yet. Future issues will determine whether this current issue is brilliant, trash or something in between. However, for the sake of being consistent, I think 8/10 is what this issue most deserves. It's pretty entertaining and it will probably turn out even better once all the pieces come together, but this arc still has something to prove before I start calling it great.

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BatWatch Review: Batman #20

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Nowhere Man

Tis time for another thrilling tale of Batman as written from the pen (keyboard) of Scott Snyder. Snyder, (former writer for Detective Comics and Vertigo's American Vampire and current writer of Batman and Talon) as we all know, has been tearing it up on Batman ever since the launch of the DCNU with some massive story arcs, but Batman #19 and #20 represent the first time he has slowed thing down and told a shorter, if not less intense, story. Last issue started with a bang showing us Bruce Wayne wearing a Batman costume and tearing through a line of cops to commit acts of terror. A flashback brought us up to speed and revealed that the master molder Clayface is to blame for “Bruce's” crime spree. Apparently, Clayface has evolved to be able to transform on a cellular level which makes him more of a threat than ever to Batman. The last panel of Batman #19 left us with the monstrous image of Clayface preparing to eliminate Bruce Wayne, and without the toys in his Bat suit, it looks like it might be a gooey end for our genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist.

Does Snyder prove that he can shape a satisfying tale in but two issues or does his story dry up and crack under the strain?

In this issue, Bruce Wayne and Lucius Fox escape from certain death and Clayface leads the police on a not so merry chase.

Just How Stupid Are Batman's Friends?

This is one of those issues which will leave you perplexed at how anybody can still be ignorant of the identity of Batman. You might think that seeing Bruce Wayne eagerly don a Bat suit and act heroically might clue Lucius Fox into the fact that Bruce Wayne is Batman, but no, apparently this is just one of those eccentric things that billionaires occasionally do, and Fox is determined not to think of it as anything other than that. Similarly, another group of people in this issue get a real big hint at Bruce Wayne's darker side, but this is once more swept under the rug in a somewhat believable way. However, though Batman has a good excuse showing that he is not Bruce Wayne, this excuse should have been immediately undermined by Batman's visceral reaction to Clayface's taunting a few seconds later.

This isn't a huge problem for the story, but it kind of annoyed me. It's one of those things that you are going to read, and maybe it will bug you, but you are going to say, “Hey, this happens in the same universe where Superman can hide his identity from people who have known him for years with just by wearing pair of eyeglasses. If that holds water, why should this be a problem?” However, little things like this bug me.

Screenshot from 2013-05-08 18:07:13.png

It seems especially annoying that Lucius has never figured it out. Part of this probably stems from the fact that Morgan Freeman so quickly put it together in The Dark Knight trilogy, and it just feels like Lucius should have figured it out by now. Also, Fox designs all Batman's gear. Wouldn't it be super easy to put a bug in the Batmobile, find out where it goes, or listen in on the conversation inside the cab. Maybe Lucius Fox is just a much better person than me, but I'm pretty sure my curiosity would get the best of me if I were in his position.

Anyway, the lack of intelligence of the supporting cast is not a huge hangup in this issue, but it was one of those things that deserved a little rant.

This Ain't Your Daddy's Clayface

I suspect there will be some division in the opinions of Bat fans over this new version of Clayface. Essentially, Karlo's abilities have been upgraded in every possible way. He can now shape himself to someone's DNA patterns simply by touching them. He has developed immunities to many of the attacks that stopped him previously. He even seems to have a lot more latitude in his ability to shift his mass and size.

I'm not sure any of these changes were necessary, but I can see why this decision was made. In my view, Clayface was a threatening enough character already and did not need any adjustment, but of recent, Batman has always had exactly the right tool in his utility belt to dispense Clayface quickly, and as long as Bruce just needs to throw a cryogenic bomb to take Clayface out of the game, then that makes him a significantly less threatening opponent.

It seems to me that this is a case of solving the wrong problem though. Clayface would still be a significant threat physically if Bruce did not always have exactly the right tool for the job at hand. Now, Clayface is nearly unstoppable, and I'm not sure that this really a better way to go for the character.

The Heart and the Art

I actually greatly enjoyed this issue, yet all I have taken the time to do thus far is nitpick it. However, there are plenty of great things to be seen here.

Screenshot from 2013-05-08 18:11:27.png

The dialogue is fantastic as always. For my money, Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV could both write Bat books with absolutely no action and just focus on character interactions, and I would still buy it because they both seem to have character voices down extremely well. Whether in a plot moment or an action scene, there was not a remotely dull panel to be found, and that is quite an accomplishment which Snyder manages on a regular basis. The characterization of Bruce Wayne also deserves some specific praise. Bruce, not Batman, gets a lot of screen time in this issue, yet he does not sound like Batman nor does he sound like the stereotypical dumb playboy that often makes up Bruce's characterization. As a guy who is funding a vigilante organization, it really does not make much sense for Bruce to present a cover as a completely shallow playboy, and here, he seems to have some intelligence and grit as Bruce while still having an air of privilege. It's a nice take for the character.

Damian also continues to play an important role in this story, and there are a couple of scenes which will sting a little for all those with a soft spot for either Bruce or Damian. Alfred also gets his moment in the spotlight during one of these moments.

Of course, you cannot read an issue of Batman without giving Greg Capullo his due. Obviously, things just flat out look great, but there are also subtle creative flourishes. Clayface makes heads come off of him which looks cool and menacing especially when Bruce sees himself for the first time. There is a brief chase scene which manages to actually convey momentum which is sometimes difficult to capture in comics. The angles which Capullo uses to frame the panels are impressive. Capullo has a very cinematic eye, and if you'll pay close attention, you'll notice constantly shifting perspectives and some creative angles such as overhead shots or panels framed from the perspective of a medicine cabinet. Capullo does great work.

Bat Droppings

1. Clayface is able to get really huge in this issue, and that level of shape changing is too extreme for my taste. Also, all Clayface has to do to defeat Bruce is touch him. I think Clayface is too overpowered, but I suppose he could easily be devolved in future appearances.

Screenshot from 2013-05-08 18:13:42.png

2. I really enjoyed seeing Bruce and Lucius brainstorm to escape their deathtrap. It is moments like this that show the intelligence of The Dark Knight even if it was yet more tech that saved the day.

3. Batman Beyond makes an appearance in this issue. However, he charges through a steel wall while carrying Lucius which would have ripped Lucius to shreds. Messy.

4. Cost effectiveness is a reason not to mass produce a piece of tech but not a reason to destroy a prototype.

5. The backup feature was pretty good but not quite as good as I had hoped. It ended fairly predictably though it did have some heart.

6, Again, I really like Alex Maleev's (former artist for Daredevil and current artist of Batman and End of Days) work on the backup art.

(Spoilers until Conclusion)

7. I didn't really care for the visual design of the suit Batman used to confront Clayface.

8. In one panel, Clayface crunches in Batman's protective helmet which actually made me cringe and gasp. That's a painful looking blow.

9. It was a pretty big gamble for Bruce to assume Clayface could no longer remember Karlo's DNA sequence.

Conclusion 9/10

Despite all my nitpicks and complaints, this issue still delivered on the most important element; it was fun. All Batman fans, as long as they are willing to see some changes to Clayface's abilities, will enjoy.

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Review: Batman #19

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Nowhere Man

Batman is in a pretty good place right now in terms of writing. The Batman veteran Grant Morrison (former writer of Rebellion's 2000AD and Batman and current writer of Batman, Incorporated and Action Comics) has been finishing up his run on Batman, Incorporated, and it continues to thrill with a new twist around every corner, John Layman (former writer of Image's Chew and current writer of Detective Comics) has been tearing it up on Detective Comics delivering some great one shot adventures which still manage to build together to a longer, more complicated story, and even Greg Hurwitz (former writer of Vengeance of the Moon Knight and Penguin: Pride and Prejudice and current writer of The Dark Knight) has been doing solid work on The Dark Knight in his current origin story of The Mad Hatter. Despite all this, Scott Snyder's (former writer for Detective Comics and current writer of Batman, Talon, Vertigo's American Vampire, and Swamp Thing) Batman is still the fan favorite as it woos readers with stories which are simultaneously accessible to new readers while having plenty of homages and depth for old school fans. I can pick apart some of Snyder's issues in terms of specific plot details, but there is little doubt that Snyder understands one of the fundamentals of the comic book industry; either make it entertaining, or pack your bags and go home.

Screenshot from 2013-04-10 20:15:19.png

Last issue was a mixed bag in terms of quality. I think that if I could separate past Batman stories from Batman #18, then I would have loved it for it was a well told tale, but it thematically echoed “A Lonely Place of Dying” so clearly that I could not shake the feeling that it was a work standing on previous creative team's shoulders. Other people had an even more negative view of the comic because of a strong dislike of Harper Row. Personally, I rather enjoy the character for her ability to cut through Bruce's bullcrap, but many seem to feel she is annoying, unneeded, redundant, useless, and insulting to the memory of Damian. However, I enjoy her, and I look forward to seeing how Harper evolves as a character.

Does this issue of Batman deliver a stellar story which everyone can agree is excellent, or will this be yet another issue which divides readers into lovers and haters?

In this issue, Bruce Wayne goes on a crime spree while Batman continues to mourn the loss of Damian.

Tension and Resolution

A huge aspect of telling stories is the balance between tension and resolution. The writer has to build up conflicts, suspense, drama, and then resolve it in a way that keeps readers on their toes. In comics, it is perhaps even more important to have this down because based on the short amount of space given to tell the story, narratives are distilled into their most basic forms. In other words, you have to deal with the tension and release very quickly.

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The introduction of this issue did a fantastic job building up tension for the reader. Despite the cover, I was still surprised to turn the page to see it was Bruce Wayne creating such carnage and mayhem. The rest of this scene definitely sells the idea that there is a new player in town either with mind controlling, cellular level shape shifting, or cloning power, and the actions of Bruce in these pages paint the picture of someone cavalier in his actions, yet with a definite f unclear motivation. In brief, this issue nailed the tension.

The release was not so satisfying though. After Snyder builds up this truly puzzling mystery, Batman solves it after about one minute of investigation. Granted, Batman chases down some other leads before he finds the core mystery, but once he stumbles upon it, the mystery is solved in no time, and that really disappointed me. I would have much preferred to have been left guessing for a month or have it revealed at the conclusion of this issue, but the revelation comes about three-quarters through, and the ending in comparison is just a logical and mostly predictable result of Batman's earlier discovery.

To give Snyder his justly deserved props, a scene towards the end of the issue did surprise me as an attack came from an unexpected source. Snyder did the classic move of doing a flourish with his left hand while doing the actual magic trick with the right, but it fooled me, and it once again sold the idea that this villain makes it impossible to know who you can trust, but I still wish the mystery had lingered for longer.

Action Scenes Galore

Another area in which Snyder just knows his business is in balancing action with plot. In the main story, we get four action scenes in twenty pages, yet there is still plenty of time for narrative, and the action makes sense in the context of the story and plays an important role. However, I do have some nitpicks with them.

Most of the complaints come in the fight between Bruce Wayne and the cops. First up, Gordon has Bruce Wayne dead to rights with a gun pointed at him, yet he gives Bruce enough time to pull a shotgun and blast him with it. We know Gordon will drop a suspect if forced, so why didn't he do it in this case? He should have had time, so it doesn't track that he would fail to pull the trigger. Also, Commissioner Gordon is pretty well brutalized by Bruce and should be in critical condition if not actually dead, but I suspect he will be back up and running by the next issue, or at worst, he will be doing okay in a hospital bed.

Screenshot from 2013-04-10 20:22:12.png

Commissioner Gordon takes a shotgun blast to the chest. Now, I realize he is wearing bullet proof vest, but that does not stop you, necessarily, from serious injury. I know more about guns that the average bear, so let me give you some insight into this. First up, you can load a shotgun will all sorts of different shells from things as large as slugs which are basically like shooting someone with a min-cannonball or something as small as rock salt shot which will not actually kill anyone but will embed itself into the skin and burn like the dickens. We know based on the the bullet pattern at impact when Commissioner Gordon was shot that Bruce fired something that had a spread to it, so Gordon was not shot with a slug, but it is highly unlikely that this murderer was limiting himself to salt rock, so it would make sense that he was shooting something on the level of buck shot which will take several medium sized pieces of metal and slam them into the target.

Now Gordon is wearing a vest, but a vest does not stop the impact of a bullet. Rather, it displaces the force of a bullet. Instead of having the impact all focused on one little point of your chest and going through your body slicing everything to pieces, the metal catches it, but the force behind that bullet still impacts with the body armor which impacts with the chest, so instead of having that force all in one place at the point of impact, it spreads the impact out across your entire torso. Multiply this by a dozen different pieces of metal from the shotgun shell, and you basically have somebody hitting your body armor with a sledge hammer a dozen times. Are the bullet going to go through you? No, but your ribs are probably cracked and pushed back into your chest, and there is a real chance some of your internal organs have popped. Survivable? Most definitely. Something you shrug off after a few minutes? No.

Add to this the fact that Bruce peels off his motorcycle on Gordon's chest which would most likely push the vest aside, and there is a good chance a lot of Commissioner Gordon's skin and possibly more is only partially attached to his body after this scene.

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In the next action scene, Batman is driving an amazingly cool looking motorcycle, but it does not really make any sense. There appears to be nothing connecting the wheels (which are actually giant spheres) to the bike, so how does this work? I was thinking maybe some sort of electromagnetic field kept the spheres attacked to the bike, and I was willing to buy that for a comic book universe, but then I realized that the spheres had no treads, so most likely, they would just kind of spin over the ground without moving anywhere. Certainly, they would not move quickly.

Anyway, I would prefer it if the action stayed a bit more attached to reality.

The Mind Controlling, Shapeshifting, Cloning Psychopath (Spoilers for This Section)

As I said before, I found it rather disappointing that the identity of Clayface was revealed so soon, but I also have to say that Clayface as the bad guy felt a little off. Clayface has never, to my knowledge, been a criminal mastermind type. I mean, he has some schemes, but they are pretty basic, and he's not super big on the forethought and planning, yet the first scene where Clayface is taking out the cops feels pretty thought out and planned, so what gives? Is this a new take on Clayface, or am I giving Karlo more credit than he deserves for his actions? Also, what's his motivation here? Is he working as a hired gun? I'm not saying this is necessarily wrong, I'm just saying this aspect of the story needs some clarification.

Ghost Lights

In the backup feature, Superman comes to Gotham to try to talk to Batman about the death of Damian, but while there, the World's Finest have to deal with a supernatural phenomenon.

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Alex Maleev (former artist for Daredevil and current artist of Batman, Detective Comics, and Daredevil: End of Days) and Brad Anderson (former colorist for Dark Horse's Star Wars: Legacy and current colorist for Batman and Detective Comics and cover artist for Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps) do the art on this story, and it is really well done. I don't know if it will be everybody's cup of tea, but it has a very dark, ink heavy, subdued color scheme going for it, and it really looked sharp. Somehow, even Superman's color scheme manages to look intimidating in this story rather than laughably flamboyant. The art did a great job of setting the slightly horror/thriller tone of the story.

As for the story itself, it's pretty interesting. I like it when writers incorporate other mythologies into the comic book universe, and here they draw upon the reported phenomenon of ghost lights or the willo the wisp who, according to different mythologies, can lead people to great peril or great prosperity. (usually great peril) Seeing this take on it was really cool, and it's magical nature works nicely to nerf Superman's powers which both keeps the upcoming battle from being a blowout and adds another layer of menace to the story.

Screenshot from 2013-04-10 20:27:25.png

The interaction between Bruce and Clark is good, but it's nothing we have not seen in previous stories. Supes came to town to help Bruce work through his issues with Damian, and I hope the story will follow up on this in some meaningful way in the next chapter.

Bat Droppings

1. What's up with the odd overlay over Commissioner Gordon at the bottom of page 1?

2. It's a bit convenient that Batman has the exact anti-toxin needed in his bike. On the other hand, is there some sort of generic anti-toxin that applies to a bunch of poisons? What do I know? Something to look up in the future perhaps.

3. Seeing Bruce essentially turn through the pages of a his family photo album was touching, and I was pleasantly surprised that the death of Damian was not swept under the rug in this issue.

4. Didn't Bruce send Alfred on “vacation” in Batman, Incorporated? Maybe the vacation has already passed.

5. I suppose I should not go through a review without giving props to Greg Capullo's (former penciler for Image's Spawn and current artist for Batman) excellent, as usual, work.

6. Though it looks cool, I do question the design of the Bat Plane that has a giant hole in the nose presumably to suck in air. I'm pretty sure that is not aerodynamic. Of course, I'm pretty sure most of the Bat Planes don't actually hold up to aviation standards.

7. I do think Capullo went a little far in trying to make the villain look gross. It was not really needed.

8. (Spoilers) I think, perhaps, Supes and Bruce should have noticed the giant monster on the ceiling before the ghost girl pointed it out to them. So much for the World's Greatest Detective and supervision. I assume, though, there was some sort of supernatural element that kept them from noticing it..

Conclusion 9/10

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The main story is pretty good though there are several minor issues which slightly disappointed me. The only big one was that the story would have worked better if the identity of the villain had remained a mystery for a longer time. The backup story is even better giving a nice contrast to the typical Batman story and giving us a delightful chance to see the worlds' greatest super team working together. If you are a fan of Batman, you'll want to buy this issue. It's not the best this creative team has done, but it's definitely worth purchasing.

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Review: Batman #18

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Resolve

Snyder (former writer for Detective Comics and current writer of Batman, Talon, American Vampire, and Swamp Thing) promises an issue focused on Harper Row, the girl without any apparent role in the DC Universe. Apparently, she will somehow discover Batman's loss of Robin or at bare minimum witness the fallout from the event. Harper appeared to be taking an unhealthy fascination with Batman in Batman #12, so perhaps she has spent all her time since then obsessing over The Dark Knight and she will discover Bruce's identity and need for a Robin in the same fashion as Tim Drake did in A Lonely Place of Dying. Harper has long been rumored to be the new Girl Wonder, so could this be the beginning of the road that leads to Harper donning the yellow cape and domino mask? Only time will tell, but for the moment, another question is at hand. Does Batman #18 deliver a poignant tale of loss for the caped crusader and character development for the mysterious Harper, or is this a forced crossover that fits poorly into Snyder's regular storytelling?

In this issue, Harper stalks Batman and watches as he becomes increasingly aggressive and self-destructive.

Harper Row Is Officially the New Tim Drake

Why does Tim Drake not act like Tim Drake? Because Harper has stolen his role in the DC Universe.

I am pretty sure I would have loved this issue if I had never read “A Lonely Place of Dying,” the plotline that introduced Tim Drake to the world back in 1989. There is nothing wrong with this story; in fact, it is quite well told with great art, excellent dialogue, and a good flow, but I'll be darned if every single page did not feel exactly like the classic eighties story. There are certainly differences between Tim's origin and Harper's origin, but the similarities just left a bad taste in my mouth.

Harper has not discovered Bruce's identity as of yet, but she most definitely has the same fanboy type admiration for him which made Tim such an easy character of love. Like Tim, Harper has natural computer and technical knowhow. Also like Tim, she has been physically training herself for battle. She approaches Bruce right after he lost a beloved if rebellious son/Robin. She instinctually realizes that Batman needs someone to bring light to his darkness. It is all so very familiar.

This typifies one of my largest complaints about the entire New 52; nothing is really new. DC claims that they are ditching all their old history in an attempt to move forward and tell new and exciting stories unrestrained by past continuity, yet when left to write these “new” stories, writers inevitably end up rehashing the same old plot lines from past years with slight variations. This is not new but redux.

I'm Cool with Harper

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Harper will clearly have some role as a protege of the Bat, and though Harper's origin feels completely derivative, I think Harper as a character has a lot of potential. I know many people took issue with Harper-centric issue #12, but I find her to be a very likable character who hits a niche not really being filled by other characters. Like Jason, she has the rough upbringing aspect. Like Harold, she has tech savvy. (her wireless release for her rope is ingenious) Like Stephanie, she has a criminal father. I could go on, but you get the idea. Harper has a mix of a lot of characteristics we have seen in various members of the Bat Family over the years, but it is a rather unique blend which is not really present in Bruce's life at the moment.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of her personality is the way she talks to Bruce. She has a mix of defiance, frankness, earnestness, and respect which I am not sure we have ever seen. She seems to have a way to get past Bruce's emotional walls, cut through his bullcrap intimidation techniques, and really talk to him, and if that is something she can pull of consistently, that would be a truly new take for a Bat protege. In the DCNU, Nightwing has demonstrated an attitude towards Bruce which is somewhat similar, but that came through years and years of being partners, yet Harper manages to bust through Bruce's bullcrap in a few conversations. That is quite a feat.

Requiem

Does this issue give a proper memorial to Damian? I suppose you could make a case either way. It all depends on what you want from the arc.

As promised, the story is from the eyes of Harper, so Damian is never really discussed or openly mourned in this issue. Do not expect any touching Damian flashbacks or tearful remembrances. However, Harper and Batman do eventually have a heart to heart, and in that conversation, Bruce's pain is very obvious. Similarly, Bruce's self-destructive actions make his heartache rather clear.

Speaking of Bruce's self-destruction, I did like the way that was handled. Yes, it was very, very reminiscent of A Lonely Place of Dying, but it also showed some character development. Whereas Bruce spent months in a rage over the loss of Jason, Bruce only spent a week truly going nuts after the death of Damian. Bruce did not completely shut people out even in the midst of his pain, and again, I think that indicates some growth on Batman's part.

It definitely appears that Harper will become the new Robin, and this issue sets up for her to be a future warrior of the Bat, so in that sense, I can see how some might feel that Harper is trampling all over Damian's grave, but I figure that most people who were big Damian fans want to know how the legacy of Robin will continue, so I do not think many who are buying this issue for the Requiem crossover will be disappointed.

Fill In Artists

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Greg Capullo (former penciler for Image's Spawn and current cover artist for Batman) took this month off of Batman, so there were two fill in artists for this month. Andy Kubert (former artist for Batman and X-Men and current penciler for Batman and cover artist for Green Lantern Corps) did the first half and Alex Maleev (former artist for Daredevil and current artist of Batman) did the second, and both halves looked great. I do not really have any complaints about either artist. Kubert is a bit more exaggerated and has a smoother look to his work while Maleev's characters are a bit more realistic (except for a certain dog and owner who had an excuse to look unrealistic) and gritty, but if you put a gun to my head and made me choose, I would say Kubert is my preferred artist, but both of them bring a great look to the series.

Bat Droppings

1. All the covers for this issue look great.

2. I'm not sure what I think of this portrayal of Blackgate, but I am leaning towards liking it.

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3. I have no doubt that we will be seeing Harper's dad again.

4. I would really like to know what is going on in the submarine scene. Is that a Bat mallet?

5. The short bit about the dog fights was really interesting, and I would like to see this expanded though I am not sure it would be substantive enough to sustain an arc.

6. Unless Harper gets a full face mask, (could she be the future Batwing perhaps?) she is going to be very easy to identify between her blue hair and noes ring.

7. I get that Harper's plan for sending a message to Batman was cool and lead to neat symbolism, but couldn't she have just passed him a note?

Conclusion 8/10

I hate to give this story such a low rating because it does not deserve it on its own merits, but I cannot help but feel that it is too derivative of “A Lonely Place of Dying,” and that really bugs me. If you are not attached to the old plot line, this is a definite purchase for any Batman fan, but for older fans like me, go in with more moderate expectations.

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Review: Batman #17

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The Punchline

The end draws nigh. It's about thirty minutes until midnight at which point I am hoping Comixology will add Batman and allow me to do an early review. (it didn't, so I went to bed an did the review this morning) Early reports from advanced and pirated copies say that we should expect good things from Batman #17, but I aim to give you my best objective opinion hype free. Still, it is hard not to feel some amount of apprehension and excitement as the minutes count down. This has only been a five month event, but the sheer amount of tie ins that have permeated the Batman universe and the weighty name given the arc makes it nearly impossible to shake the feeling that this is a monumental comic. Will someone die? (I doubt it) Does Joker know? (I'm not sure) How will this event kill the Family? (No idea. It might not) We are about to find out. Does Snyder and Joker's final punch line pay off in big laugh, or does it receive only groans and crickets?

In this issue, Joker throws a family dinner for Batman where he must decide who lives and who dies.

Let's Just Get This Out of the Way

I figure some of you are eager to know the big revelations of the story, so this section is going to be all Spoilers. If you want to be surprised, then skip this section and start with the next.

(Spoiler) Does anybody die? No. Does Joker know the identities of the Bat Clan? Almost certainly not. He knows the location of the cave, but he does not want to know who Batman or the family truly is. Does anybody lose their face? No....except for Joker when he falls off the waterfall. Does the Bat Family die in some form? I do not think they die, but they are definitely wounded psychologically, and it seems they will need to evaluate themselves as individuals before they are able to come back together as a family.

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Well, That Was Awesome

I've had mixed feelings on this whole run. The art has been amazing, the dialogue is nearly flawless, many of the set piece battles were inspired, and the tension has been handled very well. On the flip side, Joker is capable of doing way too much damage even ignoring all the cross over events where he is able to be everywhere at once. Saying that Joker can single handedly take out a dozen or so armed, alert police officers or that he can kill off an entire apartment complex without alerting the authorities is really stupid, and similarly, Bats was a bit overpowered in the last issue taking on seventy plus Arkham inmates at once and performing several other ridiculous feats in the last issue alone.

Reservations for the arc still being fully intact, this was absolutely a superb issue, and I cannot think of a single way I could have asked for it to be any better.

We start off with Joker moving the conversation forward. Everybody seemed to originally appreciate the approach Joker took to menacing Bats in the opening couple of issues of Death of the Family. Batman was king, Joker was the Court Jester, and the Family were the petty spawn that drew attention and power from the king and thereby weakened him. However, readers became quite tired of hearing the same basic claims repeated constantly in every arc. It's a good concept, but repeated six times over, it becomes trite.

However, Joker has some new things to say in regards to his relationship with Bats this issue. Joker explores the reason he allowed his face to be removed. Joker's basic argument is that if you take off Joker's face or you take of Batman's face, it does not matter because they are still the same person underneath, monsters. However, the rest of the Bat Clan is nothing more than pretenders and imitators. Remove their faces, and there is nothing left.

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Joker also takes on Batman's reluctance to kill him head on which is something I did not see coming. I suppose I should have since it would make sense that Joker would interpret Bruce's reluctance to kill as as a sign of Bruce's love for him, but still, it surprised me by popping up as one of the obvious underlying themes of the story which had never been explicitly stated or explored. Joker gives his interpretation of Batman's no kill policy, and then later, Bruce sets him straight, yet you can't help but wonder if there might be something to Joker's perspective of the situation which is that Bats will not kill him because he loves him more than he loves protecting people, and at the very crucial moment when Batman has his final confrontation with Joker, you can't help but catch some romantic undertones to the interaction. Batman holds Joker by the arm, draws him close their mouths nearly meeting, and whispers secrets into his ear.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not from the Morrison school of thought that says, “Gayness is built into Batman,” but there is definitely an emotional and psychological intimacy between Batman and Joker, and it was clear Snyder was playing with that in this scene.

Keeping Us on Our Toes

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Snyder did a good job of keeping us guessing. Though I never bought in to the idea that Alfred was going to die even after seeing the preview for this issue that obviously implied it, I did fall for the idea that Joker had cut the Family's faces off. I was thinking about the commentary article I wrote the other day about how it was possible to restore faces, but at the same time, I thought it would be really awkward to have every member of the Bat Family wearing bandages over their faces for the next several months and being unable to emote for awhile. Thankfully, this turned out to be a red herring. However, there were several things about this scene which raised questions for me.

For one thing, where did these faces come from? Are they some sort of synthetic face? For that matter, where did the masks on the faces come from since the Family was all shown to have their masks after the bandages came off? Also, how do the faces manage to have jaw lines without heads? I know, I'm overthinking it, but I can't help but wonder if some family in Gotham is without faces tonight. Perhaps the family seen in issue #15 received a visit from a clown?

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(Spoiler) Also, I'm wondering if there was some plans for Jason to lose his face. This, as you probably know, has been rumored to be coming due to the future RHATO issue showing Jason faceless. This was another area in which Snyder fooled me because if you look at the Bat Clan after Bruce leaves, everybody lost their bandages quickly except for Jason. We never saw Jason with an intact face until his last panel of the story. This makes me wonder if somebody was flirting with the idea of removing Red Hood's face and it was decided at the last moment to leave him intact. There was recently a change in writers on RHATO from Lobdell to Tynion IV, so perhaps the two had different future visions for the series? There was also the tease in Teen Titans #16 where Joker is seen doing something with Jason's mask which was never continued in this issue, so I feel like there was either something planned here which was scrapped or there is another shoe to drop on the Jason front.

The Heart of the Family

For a story which could fairly be accused of being torture porn in large sections, this issue actually left off with some pretty tender and touching moments, and these are some of my favorite things from the entire arc.

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(Spoiler) It was very gratifying to see Batman trust the family to take care of their own problems. Bruce saying that his children make him stronger is one of the moments that makes you want to stand up and cheer. Similarly, seeing the Family in the grips of Joker gas was a terrifying moment, and part of me was thinking, “No, save them!” and I suppose some criticism could be made of the idea that the Family is able to overcome the effects of Joker toxin while most others die, but you can reasonably make the case that the Family has probably been exposed to it previously, developed some immunity, and been trained in techniques to control involuntary responses, so for the comic book realm, I think this is a fair scenario.

(Spoiler) In the same vein of tender moments, the scene between Bruce and Alfred was great with Bruce confessing his feelings to his father figure while taking on the role of servant and caretaker for the poor beleaguered butler. Seeing Bruce tease Alfred while playing off the Year One concept of a summoning bell was...just plain cute.

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(Spoiler) Finally, we see Batman realizing the need for having a family meeting, but the family being unwilling to meet. This shows some development on both ends, and I thought it was a rather poetic moment. It's very relatable because we have all probably been on both ends of that situation. We've all been the person who wants to connect with loved ones during a hard time, and we've all been the ones to keep our distance because we need time to ourselves. Seeing the family deal with their emotions in their own private ways was powerful as was the phone call between Dick and Bruce. Though it makes no sense with Dick no longer being Bruce's ward, its nice that Snyder was willing to give that little nod to Dick being the closest child to Batman, the only one who is able to reach out and truly connect to him.

Bat Droppings

I'm going to throw out a few more random thoughts on things.

1. Capullo and the rest of the art team continue to do a great job.

2. Snyder has done an amazing job coming up with a great first page for every issue.

3. I like that the two-headed lion's cub was brought back for this issue. It served as nice bookends for the story.

4. The dinner table death trap was clever and simple as was Bruce's escape.

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5. It would benefit the story if there were some explanation to the effects of Joker toxin since its effects seem to range widely. I guess you can say that comes down to Joker's particular cocktail, but that's a bit of a cop out.

6. One of the best things about this story is that Batman kept his integrity throughout. It would have been easy to shake things up by making him compromise, but he stands by his principles.

7. It was nice to see a hug between Bruce and Damian. They so rarely act like father and son.

8. Joker pulls out a few classic gags at the end of the issue which were nice to see.

9. (Spoiler) I liked that Joker's little book of secrets appeared to have nothing in it, but isn't there supposed to be a Joker book of secrets in one of the Morrison stories? If anybody recalls, please drop me a line and refresh my memory.

10. (Spoiler) Batman reveals how he knew Joker did not know his identity, but he claims that he could have never explained that to the family. Uh, yeah you could Bruce. You could have told them that exact story.

11. The ending was pretty cool with the “Ha” though I do wonder if there was any significance to the fly. I assume it is just a lingering reminder of Joker's influence.

12. In some of the variant covers, Bruce looks cross eyed. That's really lame.

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13. The last two pages do something called “Channel 52” where DC promotes its current issues as a newscast. I'm not delighted about this taking two pages away from the story I bought, but I did think this was a very cute way to get people interested in other stories. “Well personally, I'm team Wonder Woman.” Awesome.

Conclusion 10/10

I really cannot find much of anything negative to say about this issue. It was great. You should definitely pick it up.

Review: Batman #16

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Castle of Cards

I've not been as flabbergasted by Death of the Family as some. The story has its problems with overexposed and formulaic crossovers not to mentions a Joker who can apparently do anything he wants whenever he wants, but still, the core story has been a heck of a ride with brilliant art, solid story, creepiness galore, a couple intriguing mysteries, strong dialogue, cool aesthetics, clever themes, and fitting dialogue. On the list of awesome Joker stories, I'm not sure this one will end up at the top, but unless Snyder really bungles it in the last act, Death of the Family will make for a great addition to the Joker collection.

In addition to being just another part of a very good story, I expect this issue might have a big revelation. We know that Death of the Family ends with the next issue, so if Joker really does know Batman's secret identity, the end of this issue would be the place to reveal it. If Snyder reveals it any later, it would give Batman and the cross overs no time to explore the consequences. If Joker knows, we will know by the end of this issue. Does Batman 16 make our deepest nightmares come true, or does Joker's hell house of horror fail to deliver on promised dread?

In this issue, Batman makes his way through Joker's labyrinth.

And Arkham Is...

Reading various commentaries on the last issue, there was a lot of speculation on what motif Joker might use for his takeover of Arkham Asylum. Would it be a mad house or a slaughter house? Would it be a family dinner, a dance, or a wedding?

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Well, Joker decided to stick with the theme of Batman as a Bat King. For this reason, Arkham is Batman's castle fully stocked with knights, horses, and generally medieval decorations. The aesthetics work well for the most part; I especially liked, though it took me awhile to decipher the equipment, how Joker gave the inmates the guards riot gear for a cool knight aesthetic. The classic rogues gallery is bought to the forefront in this issue and given a dark age makeover of sorts. The way the different villains figure in to the Bat King mythology is rather clever. I was a bit confused on the Dollmaker's tapestry. Specifically, where did that skin come from and what the heck did Joker mean by, “I thought dead would be better, but he put tubes in the stomach and voila?”

Altogether, the set pieces for this issue are brilliant. There are a few nods to classic Joker story lines, (it looks like Joker still killed Sarah-Essen) and every aspect of Joker's setup shows ridiculous amounts of planning on his part to make everything perfect for Batman.

Capullo Deserves a Medal

Though I enjoy Snyder's writing, I think the art is what really makes Snyder's run so good at least in Death of the Family. The visual design for this issue is simply brilliant with too many interesting elements to even really do justice in this review. To name a few, Joker's face is hideous and continues to morph into slight variations which somehow manage to be increasingly disturbing. Joker's face is most definitely rotting and attracting flies, and quite frankly, my strong stomach is getting a little queasy with it. There are many striking images using horses. Horses are disposed of in this issue in grisly ways which still manage to be very entertaining. The dancing scene, the play of darkness and light, and the spreads are all quite memorable.

My only concern is that I do not want every arch of Batman to be so grisly and dark. I hope that after Death of the Family concludes, the Riddler arch will be significantly less blood thirsty.

The Strain

This is a brief thought, but it deserves mentioning. We can really see Batman fraying at the edges in this issue. If I had to pick a conclusion to this arch right now, I would guess that Joker is going to manipulate Bruce into breaking things off with the family because it stresses him out too much. The plot certainly seems to be setting up for that with Bruce becoming more and more overwhelmed by the constant nagging concern for his family's safety.

The Death

No, there is no big revelation of a death in this issue at least not explicitly, but there is a big hint at the end of the issue that indicates somebody might be croaking. If you do not get the hint, then read in the New Testament about the death of John the Baptist. Joker is apparently using a somewhat established trope with the platter. My best guess is that Damian dies, but who knows? It could be a red herring.

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The Bads

This issue really disappointed me in many ways, and I'm just going to list them all. I'm going to talk about some scenes in detail, but I will throw up a Spoiler warning before those scenes that occur halfway through the book.

1. I'm pretty sure it would be impossible to dance for days.

2. How does Batman recognize guards who are wearing masks and makeup?

3. Batman manages to break a dozen panes of what should be difficult to break glass and insert several mystery spheres into each cell in what appears to be a few seconds.

4. The guards could all save themselves from death, at least temporarily, by climbing on to the fence, yet they wait to die.

5. Batman carries water absorbing spheres as standard gear on his belt. Either that, or he knew that Joker would have this exact trap set up for him. I presume water absorbing spheres are located right next to the bat shark repellent.

6. Given the size of the spheres and the number used, every pouch on Batman's belt would have to be carrying the water absorbers.

7. There is a disappearing, flaming horse. It's cool, but it makes no sense.

8. Batman survives a fight with fifty-five inmates carrying flaming clubs and two evil horses who surround him then attack simultaneously. It was awesome but completely ridiculous.

9. Hitting a plastic riot gear helmet with a plastic riot gear shield causes the helmet to shatter. (page 8, panel 5)

10. The “tubes in stomachs” line.

11. Scratch point ten. I finally figured out those skins are live people. Ew.

12. Mr. Freeze still has a mohawk.

13. Batman has a poker chip that will burn through Mr. Freeze's suit if he moves. Please explain.

(Spoilers)

14. Despite the bat spheres and poker chip, Bats still had room on his belt for a taser.

15. “Superman” and “Wonder Woman” kill themselves even though help is seconds away.

16. Joker is always giving orders to people and requiring their help for his plans even though no miscellaneous characters are ever around.

17. Batman sees images of his allies apparently defeated. He immediately surrenders because Joker could not possibly have taken pictures that make things look worse than they actually are and no hero has ever been knocked unconscious only to revive and win the day.

18. Batman realizes that the only way to save his family from the murderous, sociopath master planner is to go along with the sociopaths master plan.

19. Batman allows himself to be potentially executed because his family had bad pictures taken of them.

20. “Wonder Woman,” “Flash,” and “Green Lantern” magically disappear between the main story and backup feature.

Judgment

The backup feature is short but pretty sweet. It is not overly deep, but it shows that Joker is the best of Batman's rogue gallery. It's short, clever, and reminds you why you simultaneously hate Joker yet find yourself kind of rooting for him.

Conclusion 7/10

Batman 16 contains excellent set pieces, gorgeous art, and a lot of clever elements, but some very sloppy oversights drag this issue down. It's like an issue of Burts All Flavor Beans with some cherry flavoring and some vomit, and altogether, it is just an average issue.

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Review: Batman #15

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But Here’s the Kicker

Despite the fact that I came down somewhat hard on the last issue of Batman with its supernatural Joker killing dozens of guards with a sweep of his hand, the hype seems to be getting to me because I found myself positively giddy to get started with this issue. Does Batman #15 live up to its hype, or does it prove to be but an average comic wrapped in a supernatural media storm?

In this issue, Batman confronts Joker, suffers a disturbing dream, and has an unpleasant discussion with the Family.

The New Darker Joker?

All throughout this arc, people, both inside and outside of the comic itself, have been talking about how this is a darker Joker than we have ever seen, and people like me have been saying, “I don’t think so.” Joker is already about as dark a character as you can possibly have. When comparing villains for sociopathic deeds, no one can top the Clown Prince of Crime. People seem to be mistaking a higher body count as “darkness,” but the soul of Joker is no more dastardly than usual. Is this a darker Joker? No, but that is not a failing of the story because it would be virtually impossible to make the Joker any darker.

However, this is an excellent Joker story exposing just how dark the character is and has always (in the modern era) been. I would pay a few bucks to get the first page alone framed on my wall. In that one full page panel, readers get a disturbing presentation of Joker’s current visage and an excellent little analysis of Joker’s psyche from a fresh perspective. It is very nice, and the story continues to deliver fresh ideas for the character. As promised, Joker confronts Harvey and the police and takes them down psychologically and physically in a way that does not rely on supernatural nonsense. It is soon revealed that Joker has a playhouse constructed for Batman which will no doubt play a fascinating role in the next issue, and Mr. J’s choice of locales has me very intrigued. Snyder seems really intent on playing up the romantic element of Joker’s fascination with Batman, and I have to say that is does serve to make his obsession all the more disturbing. Even the playhouse ties in to that concept; it is almost as if Joker is the good homemaker for his man. Joker’s tactics are brutal, effective and creepy in this issue, and I love them.

The Flow

I always have to give respect to a writer who evenly balances a comic with action and story and makes both equally entertaining. This issue starts with a bang, but when Bruce ends up talking with the family, things are just as riveting. Snyder is still teasing whether or not Joker actually knows the identities of Batman and company, and this discussion takes center stage. Again, the hype must be getting to me because I kind of want to slap Snyder and say, “Just tell me already!” Despite my impatience at having to wait another month, the pacing is actually perfect.

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Artistic Excellence

Capullo continues to deliver on the artwork. What amazes me is not so much the general quality of the work but the overall artistic design. There is a flashback sequence in this issue, and the art is given a faded, scratchy look which combines the looks of an old newsreel and a worn-out comic. It looks amazing. There are many other little details which make this issue superb. The cover is simplistic genius. Joker’s face looked even more twisted than usual during the fight with Batman. Even the spacing of the panels seems to have been carefully chosen to deliver each one at exactly the poignant moment. Most artists can draw a nice sketch, but not every artist can put it all together in such a satisfying package.

There was one scene which perplexed me, and I do not know if this was an artistic choice or something specifically written, but at one point, a family is shown which perfectly mimics the Bat Family. A dark haired father, four dark haired boys perfectly fitting the age and sizes of the Robins, and a light haired daughter all centered around a table. At first, I thought that perhaps Joker had identified the wrong family as Batman’s clan, but the scene seems to go by without any acknowledgement of this similarity which was way too close to be happenstance. Will this become important later, or does Snyder and Capullo merely want to remind readers subconsciously that this story was all about the Bat Family?

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Despite My Praise…

Despite my praise, I did see a couple problems with this issue. Batman appears to have survived a rocket blast in this issue which is clearly ridiculous, but there is enough wiggle room in the art to make this plausible. After all, it could have been a rocket that landed shortly in front of him, or it could have been some sort of incendiary explosive which would have been mostly stopped by his suit. Still, the artwork should have made that scene clear. Also, there is a dream sequence in this issue which struck me as hilarious, and I am not sure if that was the intended effect. Finally, Bruce is magically saved at one point in the story, and his miraculous survival is never explained. I could make some guesses, but that is a pretty huge plot point to leave undisclosed.

Red Light, Green Light

The backup story in this issue features Riddler trapped in his cell while Joker is creating chaos in Arkham Asylum. In addition to being one of the best Riddler stories I have seen in a long time, this story seems to setup for the next issue and the probable future Riddler story following Death of the Family. It is very entertaining, and it really whets the appetite for what Snyder has cooked up in the next issue. The artwork is also extremely strong, so kudos to the backup team.

Conclusion 9/10

I tried to find fault with this issue, and I did, but despite some moderate story telling faults, the positives were so much stronger that they nearly earned this issue a perfect score. Because of the miraculous Bruce feats which readers have to explain away, I dropped this issue down a notch, but it is still an extremely good issue which any Batman fan should purchase. 

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Batman #14

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Batman #14

Snyder has promised to deliver a story in “Death of a Family” which will transform the face of the Batman world. Batman #13 revealed a promising start with an even darker Joker leaving his mark on the GCPD courtesy of a pile of dead officers. He also brought Batman back to the scene of his original encounter with the Clown Prince of Crime. Finally, he beat and subdued Alfred for his own twisted and unknown purpose. Does Snyder continue to bring the laughs with the next installment of his story, or is the entire act a flop?

In this issue, Batman escapes Joker’s deathtrap, discovers Alfred has been taken, and finds that Commissioner Gordon is Joker’s next target.

A Reverse Murder Mystery

This whole story is beginning to strike me a reverse murder mystery. We all know the murderer, but everybody is eager to find out who the victim will be.

Sadly, I am not much enjoying this enigma. I’ve read many actual murder mysteries over the years, and though they are sometimes quite fun, I cannot stand it when the writer simply builds good motivations for all the different suspects, gives them all ample opportunity to kill the victim, and provides them slippery alibis which may or may not clear them. Rather than feel as if I am closing in on a suspect, I feel as if I am being led through an endless labyrinth. In books such as these, I find myself in a state of learned helplessness where I eventually throw up my hands and say, “Fine. I have no idea who the killer is!” When the killer is at last revealed, I feel nothing because it could have just as easily have been one of a half dozen other characters.

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My feelings are the same on “Death of a Family.” In this issue, we get teased with the idea that the entire Bat Family might be killed, and though this could be done in such a way as to create dramatic tension, it does not succeed. Commissioner Gordon is almost murdered and then saved in the process of three pages. Alfred is kidnapped and possibly maimed, but at the end of the issue, it still is not clear if he is even alive. Honestly, I would not be surprised at this point if any Bat character died, but that is the exact opposite of what Snyder should be trying to create. I want a death, if there is one even coming, to surprise me.

Joker the Invincible

My only real complaint about the last issue was the precinct scene where Joker killed half a dozen cops without working up a sweat. (Spoiler) That is pretty darn tame compared to his feats this issue where he manages to kidnap and kill an entire apartment complex without being detected by Batman or the police.(Spoiler) He also manages to kill the entire Gotham underworld (and on a tangent here, that pretty much eliminates the relevance of the current Nightwing arc) who apparently does not put up much of a fight.

Honestly, this display of the lethality from the Joker is just plain stupid. I was willing to accept it once, but it really got on my nerves this time. Joker is threatening by virtue of being a master of the unexpected, but his kidnapping scheme would have to have been reported, and there is no way Joker just magically took down three dozen armed guys with an umbrella gun.

Goofy Antics

Beyond what I already mentioned, there are two more scenes which left me scratching my head.

Batman’s escape from the chemical vat nearly defies explanation. As best as I can figure, Batman uses what he calls a “propulsion tunnel” amped up to 750 PSI to create a thrusting force which sends Batman careening into the top of the vat and into safety. Overlooking the problems with Bruce holding onto such a things and the strain on Bruce’s body from the force alone, Batman’s body should have been crushed thwacking against the roof of the vat. He essentially turned himself into a battering ram, but I do not believe Bruce, even in his suit, is more durable than the lock holding the vat into place.

Joker Teeth.png

I also found myself perplexed by the scene where Joker’s teeth wrap up Bruce. Who fired these teeth? If they were automated, how did they entangle Bruce so exactly? Also, what the heck is the tower of water behind Joker in this same scene?

I know many comic readers do not think this deeply about things, and if that is your way, more power to you, but I am not very good at turning my brain off, and these things annoy me.

Art and Dialogue Artfully Done

As always, Snyder does an excellent job pacing the story and creating perfect dialogue for the characters. It is interesting that he is making Nightwing much more assertive in his interactions with Bruce, but I am okay with this post-reboot change. Capullo’s art looks great as well, and even the scenes which make no sense to me are beautifully rendered.

Men of Worship

Men of Worship is the backup story, and though it did feature the ridiculous scene where Joker took out three dozen armed thugs by his lonesome, I actually enjoyed it more than the main story. Joker has something in the works for Cobblepot, and I look forward to seeing what exactly he has in store.

Conclusion 7/10

I know I will probably get harangued in the recommendations for this, but Batman #14 simply was not up to the level of Snyder’s previous works. Joker is graced with superhuman powers (even if they are not stated as such), and everybody is going to pay for being a member of the Bat Clan. I originally expected that Snyder had something deeper in store for readers than, “Joker’s gonna get’cha,” but I’m beginning to fear that he does not. Still, Snyder has had a superb run so far, so I’m being a little generous with this rating. Hopefully, Snyder still has some worthwhile twists in this story.

Review: Batman #13

Knock, Knock

It almost seems unnecessary to even talk about Batman #13 since it will probably be the single most discussed Batman issue of this year with the possible exception of the climax issue of the series depending on what Joker and Snyder have cooked up. Nonetheless, I paid extremely close attention to this issue, and I am ready to throw in my two cents. Hopefully, you will find my thoughts worthwhile.

This is the first issue of what is likely to be Snyder’s final run on Batman for he has committed himself to leaving the land of Batman to fertilize the much dryer fields of Superman. Few would argue that Snyder’s run has been exceptional, but with a name like “Death of a Family,” harkening back to the classic story arc wherein Jason Todd met his bloody demise and Batman endured one of his greatest defeats, Snyder has built up extremely high expectations. Is this the beginning of Snyder’s magnum opus, or has Snyder promised more than he can deliver?

In this issue, Joker returns with a bang by breaking into the police department, terrorizing Commissioner Gordon, and killing half a dozen police officers. As Batman investigates, the Bat Family starts to deal with the shock of Joker’s return. Joker soon calls Batman out by promising to kill Mayor Hady by midnight.

It’s All in the Delivery

As much as I expected Snyder to keep my interest, it was actually Capullo and the rest of the art team which really captured my attention. I’ve always enjoyed Capullo’s work, but this seemed to go beyond mere quality sketching and enter the realm of something greater. I do not know who coordinates all the artists on a comic book, but someone had a definite vision for this issue, and that person made sure the whole team worked together towards that goal.

The attention to detail on this issue is stunning. For instance, we get our first glimpse of Joker at the bottom of page three when we see his foot stepping out of a van. By itself, this would be a lackluster scene, but the colorist layered a blue/purple filter over the image which immediately gave the panel a menacing yet familiar Joker feel and brought Joker’s theme music from the animated series to my ears. An example of this level of attention to detail can be found on almost every page. The framing of the vials at the top of page eight is just a tiny bit too close making the reader feel everything is just a bit off in the world. On page ten, the full page is taken up with Batman talking to his agents as they discuss Joker’s actions, yet the panels are designed in such a way that they make the shape of Batman’s cape symbolically representing the way the protégés have evolved through Bruce’s legacy. The artistic director was on his A game on this issue.

To be fair though, I do have two artistic gripes. First, Damian’s leg was rendered in an extremely awkward pose in one scene. Are we to understand that his knee bends sideways? Also, I do not think the Capullo’s tight headshots for the cover art are well suited to his style. Again, I like Capullo’s work, but he is not an artist who transmits amazing amounts of detail or has an especially excellent grasp of human facial expressions, and without such, the close-up covers look fairly bland and boring to my eyes.

Something Big Is in the Works

Snyder promised a unique and epic Joker story, and I believe that is just what we are getting. I was hoping that we would see a fresh take on the Clown Prince of Crime, and that is exactly what Snyder delivers. Do not get me wrong, Joker still feels like Joker, but he is not up to his old tricks. In one scene, Joker uses a form of gas which kills a bunch of cops, but rather than cause them to die with a smile on their face, this gas causes them to die with a frown. More than any other, this scene encapsulates the difference of Joker’s approach in this issue as opposed to his old methods. It is a bit early to tell, but I think Joker is truly furious with Batman for perhaps the first time.

As the name of the arc implied and many have predicted, Joker does state his intention to dismantle the Bat Family. In his own words, he is here, “To save you (Batman) from the ones you call your allies. Your table. The ones who make you slow. The ones who make you weak. I’m here to take them down, one by one…” Certainly, this threat produces an adequate premise for a fun story arc, and it seems fitting that Joker should lash out at Batman in an effort to make him better, but I get the distinct feeling that Joker is either lying about his motives or at bare minimum has a secondary objective. Something else is going on here.

Can Snyder Write All Batman Comics?

I’ve said this before, but one of the things I like best about Snyder’s writing is the dialogue. He seems to always know exactly what words a character would say in any given situation. For instance, the one panel that featured Red Robin had him inquiring immediately about how Joker pulled off his stunt at the police station. That one panel of characterization for Tim is a more accurate representation of him than anything we have seen in Teen Titans for the past year. Though not all Batman characters have had as rough a year in the writing department as Red Robin, all the characters are equally well represented in this issue.

The Lost Half a Star

This would be a perfect issue if not for one scene, Joker’s attack of the GCPD. I do not buy that simply by taking out the lights, Joker would be able to kill a half dozen armed police officers.

First, flashlights are standard issue for every cop. Commissioner Gordon had his out in a few seconds. Why didn’t everybody else? If everybody had their flashlights out, it would have been completely bright in the room.

Second, since when has Joker been a great hand-to-hand combatant. Do not get me wrong, Joker has some martial arts skill, but he is no expert. If Joker were going hand to hand against two police officers, I think he would be downed pretty quickly. Yet somehow, he can get behind the officers and just snap their necks without them fighting him at all? This makes no sense. Surely they had their weapons drawn. Why not simply shoot at the guy who grabs their neck?

Tease

This issue has a short backup of sorts wherein Joker tries to convince Harley Quinn to remove her own face. It is excellent as is usual with Snyder and Tynion’s work. The artist, Jock, does an excellent job as well. Through Batman’s perception of events, we can see that Joker seems a bit off, but we can see this even more clearly through Harley’s eyes.

Bat Droppings

A few more scattered thoughts.

Joker seems to be taking Batman on a very nostalgic journey making many nods towards the past battles between the two.

Joker beats up Alfred at the end of the issue and implies that he knows about Bruce’s secret, but there is still room for doubt. Joker could be targeting Alfred because of Bruce Wayne’s funding of Batman Incorporated.

I was glad Mayor Hady lived through the issue since killing off Gotham mayors is nearly as cliché as killing off Batman’s girlfriends at this point. Let’s see a mayor actually stick around and grow as a character for once.

Bruce’s Bat tech is a tad excessive in this issue for my tastes. Bruce can measure Gordon’s vital signs just by being within ten feet of him? Come on!

The issue was very violent and dark. I do not mind in the slightest.

Many have speculated that Alfred will die in this arc, but unless Alfred dies in the next issue, then I do not think he will be killed by Joker. It would we awkward to have spared him in the first issue of the series only to kill him in the last issue. Think of how ticked people were that Neo and Trinity died in the final Matrix movie after being resurrected in the first two.

Conclusion 9/10

Though not quite perfect, this is a great start to Snyder’s final Batman story. I am eager to see where things go.

Review: Batman #0

Bright New Yesterday

I’ve heard nothing but great things about Snyder’s run on Batman, and when I read last month’s issue of Batman, I was delighted to see that his reputation has not been overblown. However, this is zero month, and I have to admit I was a little skeptical that any writer could make a truly compelling origin story for Batman. Let’s face it, Batman’s origin has been told and retold plenty of times, and there is not a lot of fresh ground to break.

In this issue, we see Bruce operating in Gotham before he discovers the symbolism of the bat. Bruce goes undercover to undermine the Red Hood gang.

Oh, Snyder! Where Have You Been All My Life?

Snyder proved me to be an utter fool for doubting his abilities. Snyder did not create a good origin story; he created an excellent origin story.

Snyder manages to encapsulate so many great elements in this story. We see a possible early appearance of the Joker. Personally, I think this was a different Red Hood, but it is fun to wonder and speculate about the ambiguity. We get to see Bruce’s faltering attempts to stop crime in the early days. Just how does one person, even someone with four years of physical training and a lifetime of mental conditioning, manage to stop organized crime? We get to see Bruce and Alfred interact in his earlier days when he was still a bit more malleable. We get to see Lieutenant Gordon use his detective skills to strong arm Bruce and investigate his possible links to the vigilante known as Batman. We even get to see Bruce try and perfect some of his future Bat equipment.

In short, this issue is practically a love letter for any Batman fan who has ever wondered about Bruce’s early days.

Random Praises

The story’s pacing is also excellent. There is a great scene wherein Bruce has to deal with a problem on a very set timetable, and even though you know Bruce will almost inevitably succeed, the scene still managed to put me on the edge of my seat. Snyder knows how to create tension.

A few more sporadic praises, and then I’ll move on. The art is great, the main villain is menacing, and the dialogue is topnotch.

I Will Now Complain

The only minor quibble I can find about this whole issue is that though I think Bruce’s prototype batarang is awesome, I do not believe the explosive charge would manage to cause the batarang to spin as demonstrated, but really, who cares?

2013?

There is a surprise at the end of this issue, or rather there is a surprise when the issue does not end. Rather, the last page says the story will be continued in 2013. This is more than a little mysterious, but if I had to wager a guess, I would say that there is probably a Snyder mini-series planned for next year which will pick up where this story left off.

Tomorrow

I am delighted that James Tynion IV is getting his own series. Previous to this issue, I had no idea he was scheduled to write the new Talon series, but after reading his backup work, I researched him, and I am now a believer. It’s just a shame they put him on a new character. I wish they had taken the reins out of the hand of whoever is doing Detective and let this boy write his own full-length Batman stories, but he will probably have more creative liberty with a new character, so perhaps it will work out for the best. I think people have good reason to be hopeful over Talon because the worst of Tynion IV’s backup stories have been very good, and some of them are downright excellent. This story fits into the latter category.

I, like most longtime Batman fans, despise the idea of trying to fit all of Batman’s protégés into a five year window. I will not explain the problems this creates at the moment because if you are an old fan, you are already perfectly aware of them.

That being said, Tynion IV has managed to write the first story which addresses this issue head on, and he succeeded in making a compelling story which halfway sold me on the five year timeline by keeping true to the essence of four different members of the Bat Clan. If DC does not give Tynion IV his own Batman series, they are doing themselves and fans a disservice.

Conclusion 10/10

Except for an actual conclusion to the story, this is everything I could ask from a comic.

Batman #12

Ghost in the Machine

One year into the DCNU, and Snyder takes a break from the tale of Batman to focus solely on a character previously believed to be only a member of the minor supporting cast, Harper Row. Snyder has already confirmed that that Harper will be playing a larger role in the Bat Verse, but beyond that, no hard facts exist on how Harper Row will shape the legacy of the Bat. With that in mind, how did Harper's first stand alone story fair?

Harper: The Positives

Many have claimed that Harper is a boring and bland character, but I disagree. Harper comes from the streets and possesses a cynical attitude towards the elite which readers have not really seen since the early days of Jason Todd. At the same time, the girl's got grit, and she can take care of her own.

Her grit is primarily demonstrated in the story by her defense of her brother, Cullen, who is assaulted by a group of thugs for his homosexuality. Though I found Harper's response to the assault admirable, I did find that the story was a bit unclear at this point. As best as I could tell, the thugs cut the word FAG into Cullen's hair. In response, Harper also cut the word FAG into her hair as a sign of solidarity. Though it is a brave gesture, it seems to me that embracing a derogatory term would be less effective than simply shaving her brother's head. Regardless, I am more impressed by Harper's willingness to confront the thugs in a physical manner than in her poetic gesture.

I do wish that Snyder had spelled out these events in a more solid manner, but perhaps he had some reason for leaving the events a little bit blurry.

Regardless of all that, Harper proves herself to be an inventive, creative, and brave character, and if she does become a more central member of the Bat Verse, I believe she will add good chemistry to the comic. I especially enjoyed her interactions with Alfred in this issue.

Harper: The Negatives

I do have a couple of complaints about Harper. First, she is reckless, and though that may just be an aspect of her character, it will quickly become annoying if she does not mature. Second, she wears a hideous nose ring. This is just my own personal feelings, but I've always found piercings to be disgusting anywhere but the ear and a small stud in the nose. Harper's noes ring makes me thing someone should attach a chain to it and lead her around like a pet.

Ect.

Batman, of course, does have some appearances in the story, and they are great as always. Perhaps, they are even more powerful than usual since we get an outside perspective on his actions. Snyder also draws an excellent metaphor between the repair of the Gotham electrical grid, Harper's own personal struggle, and the role of Batman in Gotham.

Conclusion 9/10

It appears that Harper may evolve into Batman's new Harold, but right now things are still mysterious. Wherever Snyder takes the story, I am looking forward to it.