Batman and... #24 - First Strike

Just a super short review since I'm running behind.

I'm a big Two-Face fan. I love what Tomasi did with him during Villains Month, so this is going to be a great issue, right?

How foolish I can be sometimes to think such things. 

I tried to enjoy this issue, but I just didn't. It's a slow, overly wordy yarn which slowly takes us nowhere. Other than telling the New 52 version of Two-Face's origin, this entire issue could be skipped without losing much vital information. A group of gangs are bonding together to push out the crazies, this girl who scarred Harvey is leading them and Batman's on the case. Except for the scarring of Harvey, you could give that information in maybe one more page? I can think of almost nothing in these other pages of any entertainment value except for the art which is, as usual, brilliant. However, I can't recommend an issue just based off art. 

I'd suggest waiting for the next issue before jumping on to this arc.

Conclusion 5/10


BatWatch Review: Batman and Robin #23.4 - Killer Croc

Not being a fan of Killer Croc, I expected very little from this issue, but I found quite a bit more than I expected.  

Croc, who is almost always presented as a thug or a monster, is actually represented as sympathetic here. I actually did find myself feeling at least some sympathy for the beast. It was also nice to see him as a sort of niche hero for those society has overlooked and discarded. That's something we've seen in The Animated Series and more recently in Batwoman, and it was nice to see that view of him continued because it is infinitely more interesting than him as simply a giant lizard who eats people. It was also interesting to see that he was originally black. I'd never considered Waylon's ethnicity before, and it's kind of nice to get some color in Batman's almost all white Rogues Gallery.  

The only real problem with the book is that there is no challenge for him. He's presented as an unstoppable behemoth, and therefore his conflict with the police lacks any sort of tension. Considering that the police scene makes up half the issue, that's not a trivial complaint.  

Conclusion 8/10

More Recent Reviews

Teen Titans #24 - Caught Up in Circles 

Detective Comics #23.4 - Man-Bat  

Batman and Robin #23.4 - Killer Croc

Son of Batman #1 - Next of Kin 

NightwingAnnual #1 - Embers

The Dark Knight #24 - Captive Audience

Batman/Superman #4 - Refracted

Arkham War #1 - Batman Death March

Batman #24 - Dark City

Forever Evil #2 - Rats 

Batman #23.4 - Bane

 

BatWatch Review: Batman and Robin #23.3 Ra's Al Ghul

The Demon's Tower

Ra's Al Ghul is one of the best Batman villains of all time. In my experience talking to people about Batman's greatest foes, Ra's usually ranks around third place behind Bane and, of course, Joker. We can only hope that this great villain will have a great one shot.  

Does Ra's Al Ghul reign victorious or will he be in need of a Lazarus Pit before this story is finished?  

In this issue, a representative of The Secret Society offers Ra's a position among the ruling elite, but Ra's Al Ghul has a long past full of experience off which to base a response, and that response may not be what the Secret Society's ambassador was expecting.  

This. More of This.

I wish more of the Villains Month titles had been like this one.  

This story cuts to the core of who Ra's Al Ghul is. We learn his motivation and much of his history, and you have no doubt at the end of the story that Ra's is a very great, very bad man who wields unfathomable power and prestige, yet the issue conveys this without the villains in question slaughtering a bunch of people at random or monologuing about his greatness. Don't get me wrong, people die, but in both the past and the present, there is always a reason for the death as he is mostly responding to outside aggression. He even lets some live to spread word of his legacy.  

Like Batman, Ra's is two steps ahead of everybody else. He is a myth as much as a man, and he knows what is needed to propagate that myth. With an eye to the past and an eye to the future, he guides his empire. Unlike most, he takes criticism from his foes and holds his anger in reserve for when it is needed. All in all, this issue does a better job making it's star appear like a truly intimidating foe than 90% of the other villains issues, and that's something worth celebrating.

My only complaint with this issue is that it does devolve into a couple of pages that feel included just for the sake of explaining Ra's ties to Batman and Talia, and that broke the flow of the story which was otherwise dedicated to telling a gripping tale about The Demon's Head.

Conclusion 9/10

The only story this month that left me with a similar amount of respect for a villain was the Riddler one shot. If you are a Batman fan, you should check out this issue.

BatWatch Review: Batman and Robin #23.2 - The Court of Owls

Exquisite Dread

The Court of Owls was originally an interesting villainous group, but with the massive exposure of the villains over the course of the Batman's first year in the DCNU, I'm kind of tired of them. Talon has been playing with certain aspects of the Court ever since Night of the Owls ended, but Talon, through the oversight of James Tynion IV, (current writer of Talon, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Batman and Robin and Batman) has managed to do it with class and without making the Court feel stale. With that in mind, you would think that James Tynion handling the Court here would be a good thing, but taking a look a the preview bored me as I saw a rehashed Talon assassination scene which was extremely tired.

Still, it does seem like the Court scrambling to keep it's power in a war torn Gotham could be fun. Perhaps things will heat up as the issue progresses.  

Does The Court of Owls still have the ability to shiver the hearts of Gotahmites everywhere or is it time for these birds to be plucked and stuffed? 

In this issue, the Court of Owls deals with the disruption of their power by turning to their rich history. 

The First and Last

I was extremely bored and rather critical of the introductory scene where the family of a man who stumbles on the truth of the Court is cut down, but on the very next page, we see that this is a story being told from a Court father to a Court daughter. Simple assassination via Talon does not interest me, but seeing the way the Court responds to a crisis and watching them pass down their history from generation to generation does. The entirety of the issue is nothing more than a conversation between father and daughter about the current conflict with flashbacks to past events of some relevance, but that relevance is unclear and tenuous. It is mildly interesting to see how the Court has dealt with threats over the years especially as we get a little more perspective on The Butcher's history, but it's kind of a slow story without any conclusive punch from a one shot perspective.

You see, this is a fairly good issue if you are following Talon. It ties in to characters you know from the series, and it definitely lays the foundation for things to come. In that respect, it's quite tantalizing in parts, but if you are not following Talon, I've got to believe it's significantly less engaging.

Jorge Lucas (former artist for Iron Man and current artist of Batman and Robin) does a fine job with the art from an objective perspective, but to my own tastes, he relies too heavily on darkness. Looking at some of his images, I can literally feel my iris trying to open wider to see into the darkness. It just feels like there should be more to see in some panels. Also, people's faces are drawn with weird lines and shadows across them in some panels. That's certainly falls under terms of creative liberty, but I found it distracting at times.

Conclusion 7/10

To keep is short and sweet, you will probably want to check this out if you're reading Talon because it sets up for future arcs in a major way. You also might want to check it out if you love The Court of Owls and just want to learn more about them. However, it's not very satisfying as a solo story unless your are satisfied with just a few scattered short, simple stories of the Court's past.  

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 and... #23.3 - Two-Face

I'm cutting things a little short with my reviews this week since there is so much to cover. 

A Tale of Two Harveys

Ooh boy! Two-Face is probably my favorite Bat villain, so I was hoping for great things, and this one did not disappoint.

The issue starts off with Two-Face flipping for two important decisions, whether he should join The Crime Syndicate's Secret Society and whether he should save Gotham. The coin tells him to join the Secret Society and to save Gotham, so now our...hero? Our Two-Face is in a bit of a conundrum since he has committed himself to two different goals.  

Parts of this issue are brilliant. There is an exchange between Two-Face and Scarecrow at the beginning of the issue which is captivating as the two play off each other brilliantly. Tomasi (former editor of Hitman and current writer for Batman and...) is an extremely clever character writer when he brings his A game, and we can only hope he brings conflicts this rich during the upcoming Arkham War. The set piece is well chosen too as Harvey makes his decision balanced on the Bat Signal; sure, we've seen this kind of thing before and there should be some cops in the area, but it looks cool, and considering all the crap happening in Gotham, I'm guessing it would not be too hard to sneak on to the roof.

After this fantastic opening scene, the story does not flow quite as smoothly. Things take a weird route we do not usually see in Batman comics as Two-Face cuts a middle path between being a heroic vigilante and a psychotic murderer. The story seems to know where it's going but it's a little less sure how it wants to get there, or at least that's the impression I get as things seem to meander just a tad. The big moment where things feel off is when a random group of characters enter the picture in the last act. They create the opportunity for a final conflict and position Two-Face for his finale, but it seems like these random villains needed a little foreshadowing or introduction. Instead, they come out of the blue, and it's hard to see them as much more than a plot prop and cannon fodder.

Still, I really loved this story because it pointed out something that should be obvious to all Batman writers; if Two-Face is really torn between good and bad and he flips the coin to decide which way to go, then he should be saving Gotham as much as he is destroying it, and that's exactly what we see here. We get to see what Harvey would look like as a hero, and it made me long for the missed opportunity for Harvey in the wake of Hush.

There is one other thing that I can't pass by. (Spoilers) At the end of the issue, Harvey describes himself by saying, "Half of the time I'm gone," as if one personality retreats when the other takes charge. It's an interesting take even if it goes against many previous stories, but it is cool to think of a setup where one personality takes over for a while until it's decision time, and then they both rejoin until the coin is flipped once more and the winner takes control.

Conclusion 9/10

This issue was a lot of fun without any significant blemishes. If you are a fan of Batman and... or Two-Face or you plan to buy Forever Evil, this is an issue worth buying.  

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 and Nightwing #23 - Acceptance

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Acceptance

The Stages of Grief arc has been a bumpy ride for Batman fans. On one hand, I think most of us wanted to see the grief we were feeling for Damian's death acted out by Batman and the idea of showing Batman going through different healing processes in attempt to attain peace is a creative blend of psychology and nerdology. However, Batman doesn't really seem to have moved any further through the grieving process than anger, and three weeks of anger have proven to be a bit much. Also, the series has starred a rotating cast of Bat Family costars many of which have been given little to do.  

Now, the time has finally arrived for Batman to experience acceptance, but considering the way the other stages have been handled, I'm not sure Bruce will even reach this turning point. At least we have Nightwing on board to make the ride more entertaining.  

Does this final issue prove this arc to be a story readers can accept and enjoy or does it leave fans as a boiling cauldron of rage? 

In this issue, Batman and Nightwing enter an Internet 3.0 simulator program to relive the night Damian died and figure out how they could have saved him. 

Redeemed

After a long, painful scramble to get to this point, we finally get to the end and experience some acceptance. It's not enough to negate all the rough patches getting us to this point, but it's certainly enough to wash most of the bad taste out my mouth and make me more fond of the arc.  

Grayson, for his part, is well represented in this issue. Thank goodness, we don't have any of the snobby, petty disdain Dick was throwing Bruce's way last time they met. (Detective Comics 19 if I'm not mistaken) Grayson is clearly back on good terms with Bruce or at least on good enough terms to do him a solid in his hour of need. When Nightwing enters the issue, Batman has already spent countless hours reliving VR scenarios where he tries and fails to save Damian. Knowing he can never convince him to stop, Grayson instead decides to join with Bruce.

This simple act of joining Bruce in his misery is clever. In my experience with grief, that's all you can do sometimes. Trying to talk to someone who is grieving is pointless. You cannot rationalize how someone should feel at any point, and trying to lead someone in the midst of heartbreak into making logical decisions is nearly as difficult as trying to shape their emotions. All you can really do is provide a shoulder and company and wait for a person to heal, and really, that's all Dick was doing. He was there for Bruce, and any healing the occurred happened only because Bruce was ready for it. Dick's speech at the end would never make an impact on someone in the early stages of grief, but Bruce needed a sounding board to hear his own thoughts confirmed. He needed to hear that he had permission to move on with his life, and Dick just managed to be in the right place and the right time.

Bat Droppings

1. I love, love, love this cover. It's quite beautiful as fight scenes go, and as I described in the Rundown the other day, it's quite rich thematically. It also fits the story literally as well.  

2. I would have thought that seeing so much of the Batman, Incorporated's story revisited would have been boring, but it was not. Those moments were incredibly intense on the first go round, and they are worth revisiting like a good movie. This time, there is perhaps even more on the line since we know the outcome and feel the approaching dread of tragedy.  

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3. The page spread showing Batman in the safe is brilliant showing Bruce's isolation, his feeling of being trapped, his vulnerability, and the way his whole world has been thrown askew in just one image. Brilliant.  

4. The major flaw with this whole scenario is Internet 3.0 which has never really been explained. For one thing, it's not even internet at the moment because he's not hooked up to more than one computer, is he? It's more like a gaming station/virtual reality simulator. Even running with that, you still have to wonder about how much time Bruce spent programming this scenario. You could maybe make the case that the Bat Computer would have enough data on the Bat Clan to reconstruct their actions and personalities, but what about all the thugs and The Heretic? When we see a different scene at the end of the issue, it's undeniably cool and all, but who programmed it?  

5. As always, one of the best things about this series is the focus on Alfred. It's great seeing him get his own arcs that are nearly as important as Bruce's. It almost makes me wonder if an Alfred Pennyworth series could work, but I guess that might be a bit much. He could definitely handle a miniseries.  

Conclusion 9/10

It's a great story with stunning art. I can't imagine any Batman fans not enjoying it.  

Recent Reviews:

Batman and Nightwing #23 - Acceptance  

Red Hood and the Outlaws #23 - All Fall Down 

Batwoman #23 - Veins 

Birds of Prey #23 - Dreams That Never Were 

Batman Beyond 2.0 - Nothing Lasts Forever 

Li'l Gotham #16 - Tropical Getaway!

BatWatch Review: Batman and Catwoman #22

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Despair

It's time once more for Tomasi's  (former editor of Hitman and current writer for Batman and...) series to debut another issue. Tomasi has delivered some excellent stories this past year, but it seems many feel that this particular arc is not living up to its potential. I seem to be more on board with the current arc than most. I'm good with the grieving, and I've been interested in what each chapter has brought to the forefront of Batman's character as he interacts with the members of his family. Granted, Red Robin was underutilized, Bruce was a bit too dark for my tastes in his interactions with Frankenstein and a few scenes were less than smooth, but I've been entertained so far, and I'm interested to see what happens next. 

This issue features Catwoman and while that would normally be perfectly fine, our feline fatale has seen better days. Anne Nocenti (former writer for Daredevil and current writer for Catwoman, Young Romance and Katana)  has desecrated all that makes Selina a worthwhile character, and it's hard to imagine how Tomasi might be able to use her effectively. Will he adopt the painfully bad version of Selina we have seen in recent comics, draw on a better version of Selina from better days or create some sort of hybrid that will suit his purposes? It's time to find out this and much more.

Is this issue a Cat-astrophe or is the chemistry between Bruce and Selina puuuur-fect?

In this issue, Catwoman recruits Batman to assist her on a JLA mission to rescue a U.S. spy. 

Fool Me Once...

I always try to avoid looking at comic reviews until I've read any given issue myself so I do not taint my perceptions, but after I've written my reviews, then I usually check out others' opinions. One of the main criticisms I saw of the last issue was that the issue really had little to do with the bargaining stage of grief as promised. It did do the concept lip service, but it was fairly shallow. However, I thought the issue was still entertaining and pushed forward the story of Bruce in the process of grief despite the fact that bargaining was a somewhat missed opportunity.

I'm not going to give this issue a similar pass. This issue was supposedly focused on the stage of depression had almost nothing to do with depression. Perhaps worse, this issue did not offer anything substantive to the arc in its place.  

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Is Batman depressed in this issue? Sure, but he's no more depressed than he was in the previous issues. Though it might not make for a great story from an action perspective, a Batman who was truly depressed and despairing would find it difficult to have the will to do anything because he would just feel overwhelming defeat and failure. What's the point? Why go on? Pain, pain and more pain along with a healthy dose of self-pity was the calling of the day. but out of the entire issues, there is only one page that was truly dedicated to wallowing in despair. Why did Tomasi choose this theme if he is going to ignore it?

There are some interesting things that happen in this issue, but they are all surface level. We have absolutely no new revelations about what is happening inside Bruce's head. Catwoman may have served a role in the story, but unlike the previous guest appearances of Frankenstein, Red Hood and Batgirl, Selina did absolutely nothing to help or hinder Bruce in his emotional recovery. The whole issue was just rather disappointing.

Bat Droppings

1. Perhaps Babs should have been in this issue since she is so good at feeling sorry for herself. Bruce might have been able to take some cues from her.

2. I know I've already said this, but the cover to this issue is amazing. 

3. Less amazing from an artistic standpoint is the way Catwoman's extraction of the Ram in the Thicket was not really shown. Ignoring the fact that breaking laser beams with mirrors does not actually work, Gleason (former artist for Robin and cover artist for Arkham City: End Game and current penciler for Batman and...) failed to show an angle where Selina could extract the art without breaking a beam or hitting a mirror.  

4. Also, the former Sunday School teacher in me cannot let the story of Abraham and Abel go misrepresented. Abraham did not cease from killing his son because a ram distracted him but because God sent an angel to stay his hand, and then God praised Abraham for his willingness to kill his son and revealed to him the ram in the thickett that served as a sacrifice instead. Still a horrifying story that God would ask a father to kill his son? Yes, but at least get the details of it right.  

5. I would not say I enjoyed Carrie Kelley's presence in this issue, but she did annoy me less than she did in previous appearances. Also, it is good to see her establish a relationship with Bruce a little if she is going to be sticking around for some time.

6. I still think Carrie's ear gauges, like all ear gauges, are gross.  

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7. Though not really an important issue, I suppose it is worth pointing out that the sonic gun (I'm guessing) that Bruce used to shatter through concrete would also shatter every bone in the guards body. 

8. The two-page silhouetted brawl with Bruce and Selina vs. the guards reminded me very much of The Animated Series with it's black on red aesthetic.  

9.  (Spoilers) What was the point of Catwoman lying to Bats about the nature of the rescue operation? It accomplished nothing.

Conclusion 6/10

If this were billed as some Legends story or just a simple one-shot, then I would probably give it a higher grade because it's not really bad as a standalone story, but even as a solo story, it still is just okay. Considering that this arc is supposed to be about something much deeper...depression, a concept barely brazed by this plot, it's hard to recommend this issue. If you've been following and enjoying this series so far, then you might want to consider it, but otherwise, save your money. 

BatWatch Review: Batman and Batgirl #21

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The Bargain

Here's a comic with a lot of potential for both good and bad. On the good front, we have Peter J. Tomasi, (former editor of Hitman and current writer for Batman and... and Green Lantern Corps) the expert character writer, portraying the continuing mourning of Bruce as he seeks to resurrect his son. Perhaps most exciting of all, we get to see Bruce interact with a member of the Family he rarely sees, Barbara Gordon. In the bad department, Barbara Gordon is in this story, and she has been annoying in almost every one of her DCNU appearances. I'm a little skeptical that Tomasi can fix this chronically broken character. She might have her spine healed, but her personality is still handicapped. Also a reason for concern, Patrick Gleason (former artist for Robin and cover artist for End Game and current cover artist for Batman and... and Green Lantern) has gone AWOL, fallen down a well, or otherwise gone missing on this issue, and we are left with the less impressive Cliff Richards. (former penciler of The OMAC Project and Huntress: Year One and artist for Dark Horse's Buffy the Vampire Slayer and current penciler for Batman and... and Katana)

Can Tomasi fix the broken Batgirl or is this just one more batarang in the coffin of the old lovable Barbara Gordon?

Quick reminder, today's reviews will be super short since I have to start packing for an upcoming move.

Bargaining for Greatness

Ouch! I've never written review this short on comics this big, so this is going to be painful to narrow down to just the big points, but here goes.

Overall, this was a really good issue. We continue to see Bruce grieve, and it's painful. Anybody who can get me to feel intense emotion deserves some major props, and Tomasi and Richards did just that when they revealed how raw Bruce still is. Also, I'm delighted to say that the chemistry between Bats and Babs was great. Having a woman's touch was nice. She tried to reach out in a way the boys would never do, and it was surprisingly nice to see Bruce repay kindness with animosity. Bruce might have moved past this point in the other Bat books, but here, in what I presume is an earlier time frame, he's still on the verge of self-destruct. The way Babs handled things was great. It made me like her as her actions moved the story.

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Sadly, Babs' solo scenes did not hold up nearly as well. It was nice to see Babs finally sort of confront her father (sort of) with what she was feeling, but it was done with Babs talking to Jim when he could not hear. Seeing Babs look for reconciliation while her father prepares for destruction by assembling his gun was an excellent juxtaposition, and it foreshadowed the final conflict with Bruce and Babs, but Babs' dialogue in the confession scene just did not seem like something someone would actually say while lurking outside their father's home...if they would say anything at all. Also, it's all kind of undermined by the point that is so obvious to fans, Babs could easily tell Jim Gordon and he would be fine with it. Commissioner Gordon is a reasonable and good man who supports vigilantism. is no reason for this barrier between Babs and Commissioner Gordon except for the addition of convoluted drama.

Cliff Richards was fairly good in this issue. He's not up to Patrick Gleason's level, but by the end of the issue, I was just fine with his style. I would have preferred for him to create a darker tone for this story, but alas, it is what it is.

The theme of the week was clearly bargaining, and this makes it into the story in ways with some ways being cleverer than others. Using bargaining in a hostage situation is clever. Using the word bargaining over a half dozen times in a twenty page comic? Significantly less clever. On that note, some of the dialogue was off. “...But none of it is good for you!” Really?

Conclusion 8/10

Parts of this story were very rough such as the dialogue and the setup of certain scenes, but the confrontation between Babs an Bats is great hitting home on the emotional front and there are some other good moments in the mix. In the end, it's more good than bad and a definite purchase for anyone whose been keeping up on the arc.

BatWatch Review: Batman and... #20

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Batman and Red Hood #20

This issue has me a little nervous. I've loved many of Batman and Robin's past issues, but Batman and Red Robin was a bit of a disappointment for a plethora of reasons. Red Robin was not represented as any less of a douche than he has been in Teen Titans, Carrie Kelley hijacked much of the story, and I found that I did not much care for the new apparent inheritor of the Robin mantle. We know, based on previously released information, that Red Hood will be showing up this issue, and that Batman will be working through his anger over Damian's death. Considering after this issue, Red Hood will go on a mission to lose some memories, it is fair to assume that things will go poorly between Bruce and Jason. Last issue had Batman willing to kidnap and maim Frankenstein, a fellow hero, to try and revive poor Damian, and though I understand grief can incite you to do terrible things, that is not a version of Batman I want to see, so altogether, I find myself with a lot of reasons to be skeptical of this issue.

Does Bruce's anger and loss serve as a riveting tale or does this story leave fans seething in rage?

In this issue, Bruce deals with an inquisitive Carrie Kelley before taking out a group of mercenaries with Red Hood.

Carrie Kelley Needs To Be Introduced to Joker's Crowbar

I am really hoping Carrie Kelley is not the next Robin because I cannot stand her. I'm tempted to make this a long diatribe, but I'll try to keep it short.

Carrie comes back to Wayne Manor because she wants to know whats going on with Damian, and she also wants to return the money she did not earn. I think that is something that we can all respect, right? My problem is the way she does it. When Bruce does not answer her questions, she shoves her bag into Alfred's arms and starts strolling through Wayne Manor making herself at home. She calls Alfred Hobson presumably because that was the name of the butler of Arthur in the film Arthur which was a story about a spoiled rich playboy. By calling Alfred Hobson, Carrie is being dismissive of Alfred by failing to call him by his name or even show any interest in learning his name and she is dissing Bruce by comparing him to the spoiled and shallow Arthur. After playing around on Bruce's baby grand without invitation and nosing through family photos, Carrie accuses Bruce of sending Damian away because he does not care about him. She also quotes Shakespeare when given a very small opening which, as I said last month, seems highly pretentious to me.

Coming into someone's house, insulting the owner and father of your friend, screwing around with their stuff, condemning the father of your friend as a horrible person without provocation, and quoting Shakespeare to show how smart you are? Screw you, Carrie. Get the heck out.

Why Alfred would offer her a job is beyond me. I suppose he might be thinking this would be a good potential new Robin for Bruce, but surely there are better applicants. I guess this will at least gives a justification for her continuing appearances in the series.

The Bat and the Hood

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Moving past the agony which is Carrie Kelley, I really loved the rest of this issue. Bruce and Jason's dynamics seemed spot on, and this actually fills in the blanks perfectly as to how Jason got to feeling so low by RHATO #19. For Bruce's part, he is acting much more reasonably this time. He might not be acting exactly heroically, but he's not being a monster either as he was in Batman and Red Robin, so I'm okay with his actions. Also, we get to see Bruce act a little darker than his usual self. It's about time somebody pointed out that there are plenty of ways to permanently stop someone from being a threat without actually killing them especially when you are someone with as many resources and skills as Batman.

The two steps forward and one step back process to Bruce and Jason's relationship might be frustrating to some, but considering this duos many personal issues, it's hardly surprising. Obviously, events will depend largely on how RHATO #20 plays out, but I will be interested in seeing how these two will interact the next time they meet.

Bat Droppings

1. Adding to my dislike to Carrie Kelley is her ear gauges. I don't know why people do that to themselves. It looks horrible.

2. Red Hood's mask in this issue is shown to consist of a bunch edges and lines rather than being almost completely smooth. Does anybody know the reason for this? Was the mask shattered? Is this just a specific variation of Red Hood's maks? Is it always supposed to be like this, but you just cannot tell unless you are very close?

3. The Batwing/Bat Buggy was really cool if completely ridiculous.

4. It's nice to see a story line from Batman, Incorporated cross over with Batman and...

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5. In Batman and Robin #18, a Robin suit is shown in the Bat Cave that looked distinctly feminine, and I speculated that it might belong to Stephanie. (Click Here To See It) This issue showed Jason in his Robin suit via flashback, and it looked a bit like the suit seen in Batman and Robin #18. However, the mask, collar, and belt are still different, and the suit in 18 definitely looks like it was cut in a feminine style. I'm not sure what to make of all this.

6. (Spoiler) It will be interesting to see what Two-Face brings to the table.

Conclusion 9/10

Carrie Kelley spoils this from being a perfect issue for me. However, I'm forced to admit that there was nothing actually wrong with the Carrie Kelley section of the story other than the fact that I hate her. Narratively, there was nothing wrong in this issue. If you are remotely interested in Batman and Red Hood, you owe it to yourself to pick up this issue.

More?

Hold Up! BatWatch is more than just comic book reviews. We also host News Articles, Commentary, and Image Galleries for the whole Bat Family. Stick around, check it out, and have some fun.

More Recent Reviews:

Batman #20

Batman and... #20

The Ravagers #12

Review: Batman and... #19

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Denial

I have to say that the announcement that Carrie Kelly would be joining the DCNU is a shock I still have not managed to fully process. Out of all the oddball characters who are worthy of a possible starring role in the DCU, Carrie is somewhere at the very, very bottom of the list. I mean, she was okay in The Dark Knight Returns and DK2, but...making her the new Robin in mainstream comics? I can't say I ever saw that one coming. Of course, we do not actually know if Carrie will be the new Robin, but DC has definitely implied that this is the case.

We also have Batman and...'s rolling list of guest appearances which is kind of cool. I actually think it would be fun if Batman and... continued to be a team up book for Batman, but it seems likely we will be seeing Carrie or some other character fill the pixie boots sooner rather than later. Still, this issue promises that my ex-favorite Robin will be joining the Dark Knight, and these two character have had basically no significant interaction in well over a year, so could it be that a Peter J. Tomasi (former editor of Hitman and current writer for Batman and... and Green Lantern Corps) can finally make the DCNU Red Robin a likable character? I have to say, I'm not holding my breath.

Does Batman and... #19 gives us two great Robins for the price of one, or is DC trying to sell us a bill of goods?

In this issue, Bruce Wayne meets Carrie Kelly before kidnapping Frankenstein and attempting to use his life force to resurrect Damian.

Carrie Kelly

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If the intention of this issue was to convince me to like Carrie Kelly, it failed on several fronts. First up, Carrie is a college student apparently interested in acting and directing, and my experience with actors and directors is that they tend to be stuck up, self-righteous, pretentious snobs. I'm sure there are exceptions, but nothing in this issue particularly convinces me that Carrie will be the exception to this rule. On the first page, Carrie throws a pizza in a guy's face for hitting on her which seems like a bit of an overreaction to me. Yeah, I guess the guys were being a tad inappropriate, and there are many things that an obnoxious guy could say which would justify this action, but the phrases, “Hey baby! I love redheads,” and “Want to share your pizza with me,” do not qualify.

Beyond that, we don't really see too much about Carrie that is particularly insightful. She pays her bills on time, so she is responsible. She has the decency to ask if the music was too loud when Bruce knocks on her door, so she is not completely inconsiderate. She can quote Shakespeare from memory, so that implies some intelligence though quoting it to herself in her car goes back to my, “she is pretentious” theory, but perhaps I am being too harsh.

If Carrie Kelly is indeed supposed to be the new Robin, then I fear DC will use her video game experience as a justification for her fighting prowess when the time comes. Apparently, Carrie was acting as a video game tutor to Damian, and at the end of the issue, she is shown playing a motion based fighting game. Now any gamer can tell you that motion based fighting games do not work very well in the real world, but even if we assume that the tech is more advanced in the DCU, I still don't buy that this would create any real fighting skill because the computer is reading 3D movements and converting it to a 2D plane, and fighting games rely on character abilities, stats and a set of moves, so even if physical actions did act as a controller for game actions, they would not really match up to real physical movements. Perhaps this will not be used as a justification for fighting skills at a later date, and I hope not because it doesn't make sense.

The Darker Dark Knight

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Not only did Carrie Kelly come off as unpleasant in this issue, Batman came off as darn near sociopathic in his own right planning to disassemble the hero Frankenstein in order to resurrect Damian. Sure, he says he will put him back together, but even if Frankenstein is incapable of feeling the pain of being taken apart piece by piece, it still amounts to nothing more than kidnapping. I was on the verge of buying into Bruce's actions, but it did not quite work for me. Perhaps if Frankenstein were a villain Batman were using or if Batman tried to request help and Frankenstein forcefully resisted, it would sit better with me, but Batman just out and out goes villainous in this issue, and I'm not cool with that.

Penny-One

I'm not sure if it was some editorial mandate, or if all the writers just suddenly thought this was a good idea, but can we stop with this whole Penny-One nonsense? In addition to being a bad codename, for concealing Alfred Pennyworth's identity, it sounds just plain awkward, and why call him Penny-One? Is there some Penny-Two running around in the Bat Family?

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One of the best things about Peter J. Tomasi's run on Batman and Robin is that he has really developed Alfred as a character. In most Batman stories, we might see a good Alfred moment once every few issues, but Tomasi gives us a couple good moments in every issue, and this one is no exception. We really get a good sense of Alfred's role in the family and how he guards Bruce's soul like a father even when Bruce refuses the comfort of aid of Alfred's protection. (Spoilers for the Rest of Paragraph) By far my favorite line of this issue is when Red Robin was complaining about Batman's nature saying, “Sometimes I wonder if he needs anybody,” to which Alfred replied, “And I'd prefer you show him some respect before I lose my temper.” It's always nice to see the usually calm and gentlemanly Alfred put the smack down on a young pup.

Red Robin Redeemed?

Does this issue show me why I once loved Tim Drake? No, not by a long shot.

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Red Robin is whiny about how Bruce did not tell the Family about the completely irrelevant possibility that Joker might have made it into the Bat Cave. As I've discussed previously, it made no difference, so why is everybody whining about it? Beyond that, Red Robin's actions in this issue are noble, but it seems rather pro forma. In fact, it would probably have been much more powerful if Alfred had come to intercede on Frankenstein's behalf. Having Red Robin in the issue just felt like an excuse to have a guest star's name in the title. Also, Tim is only in the issue for seven pages, and he does not do a whole lot in those pages, so...

What about Frankenstein?

I read the Flashpoint issue of Frankenstein, and other than that, I have never seen the character in his own title, so I have no real point of comparison. That being said, I did think he was pretty cool in this issue. He keeps his cool even under these extreme circumstances, and he seems to be trying to teach Batman a lesson. Furthermore, he gets into a brief fight with Bruce, and he gives as good as he gets, so props for holding his own against the bat god.

Bat Droppings

1. It's worth mentioning that this issue is two pages longer than usual. I appreciate the little things.

Conclusion 7/10

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I respect Tomasi's goal to let Batman travel all the different stages of grief, but I felt Bruce went over to the dark side in this issue, and that is not the hero I want to see. Also, Carrie Kelly does not put her best foot forward (at least I hope this is not her best foot) for her debut, and she also does not really fit well with the rest of this story. Red Robin and Frankenstein were both okay additions, but it did not feel they were fully utilized. All in all, the story is spread a bit too thin, and it delivers a vision of Batman as a man near crazed with grief. I would caution you only to buy this if you are a big fan of Batman and Robin or if you are extremely curious about Carrie Kelly's DCNU debut.

More?

Hold Up! BatWatch is more than just comic book reviews. We also host News Articles, Commentary, and Image Galleries for the whole Bat Family. Stick around and check it out.

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Review: Batman and Robin #18

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Undone

Everybody get your tissue boxes ready because Peter J. Tomasi (former editor of Hitman and current writer for Batman and Robin and Green Lantern Corps) and Patrick Gleason (former artist for Robin and cover artist for Arkham City: End Game and current penciler for Batman and Robin) are about to unleash some serious emotional devastation on us. The team that has manged to put more heart into their issues than most other Batman series combined will now have the mother of all potential heart breakers, the death of Damian Wayne, the Bat Brat who went from budding psychopath to a hero with a heart. In the wake of Damian being sliced and diced by his own quasi-brother, Tomasi and Gleason have promised a completely silent issue dealing with the loss of Damian and I expect great things. Does this issue deliver a gripping memorial for Damian, or is this just another Batman story with a cheap gimmick?

In this issue, Batman lives in a haze of pain and motion as he strives to accept the death of his son.

Is It Awesome?

Yeah, it's awesome. This is one of those issues where I feel like a lot will be lost if I analyze it too deeply because I do not want to limit the emotional impact of scenes by giving them away early. Also, the story speaks for itself and there is no dialogue to unpack, so this might be a brief review, but I will go ahead an share some thoughts.

The story starts off by digging at your heart, and it does not really let up except for a brief period in the middle where it seems to devolve into a more typical Batman story, yet after finishing the story, I now realize that the brief typical moment was a necessary middle point to reach the emotional impact of the climax. I cannot describe more than that without giving things away.

Also, let me say that the art in this issue is excellent. Even if the images did not go together to tell a story, the individual panels would make it worth buying the comic just for the superb and moody art.

Bat Droppings

Spoilers until Conclusion I don't feel right ruining anything in this issue, so you should really just read it before reading my review.

1. I am not crazy about the cover to this issue. At first, I thought it was completely generic until I realized that it was the fact that it was missing Robin that made it significant. The darkness of Batman's cape covering most of the cover serves to heighten the lack of his son, but still, it feels pretty basic.

2. Gleason gives us a nice first panel with Bruce staring into the fire. Who hasn't stared at a roaring fire at some point and pondered life's woes?

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3. The title for this issue is Undone. Perhaps it is just my Bible belt roots showing, but I think this is a Biblical reference from Isaiah 6:5 which seems fitting for the story. (at least out of context) “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips;”

4. Bruce looks through Damian's sketch book in this issue, and if I am not mistaken, Damian had, earlier in the series, made some rather violent drawings in his sketch book. In this scene, the sketches are all peaceful. Were those just not the ones Bruce looked at, or is this a sign of Damian finally finding peace towards the end of his life and exorcising that violent imagery from his mind?

5. C.K. Stands for Clark Kent, I would assume. Did we ever see Damian and Superman meet?

6. I do not know if this was intentional, but the panel where Bruce pulls the white sheet over Damian's picture reminded me of Damian's first appearance in Batman and Son with that all white outfit. Regardless of whether it was intentional or not, it was a nice little bookend for Damian's time with Bruce.

7. Seeing Alfred cry is more powerful than seeing Bruce's mourning.

8. I am a bit confused by the blood on the fireman's pole. Was this just supposed to be a reminder that Damian is dead because I find this sort of delusion or vision to be a bit blunt as opposed to all the striking images found in the rest of the issue. My only other thought it that Bruce injured himself on the way down, but Bruce does not appear to be injured, and the blood disappears implying it was a vision.

9. Okay, so there is huge news towards the bottom of page seven, and I am curious if anyone else has caught it. In the second to last panel, there is a Robin costume cut for a girl (tapered waste and larger bust) which does not match any of the previous DCNU or pre-Flashpoint Robin outfits. I checked all the DCNU Robin costumes and this does not jive with them unless one of them had multiple costumes. I even checked Helena's Robin costume, and no match, so whose costume is this? I do not believe for a second that the costume was cut for a boy.

10. I was wondering what happened to the comic cover that was in the earlier March solicits. We find it stuck in the middle of this issue, and it does feel very weird having a cover image in the middle of the story, but that actually works to the issue's advantage since it is conveys Bruce's unstable state of mind.

11. I get that Bruce zoned out and ran over a lighting pole, but this scene really felt like it needed some sort of resolution like Bruce at least getting out of the car or snapping out of his reverie.

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12. The three pages following the crash are where I felt like the story began to lag, but again, I now see that this is Bruce trying to get back into the flow of things. He is going through the motions trying to make things okay which sets up for him breaking back at the cave.

13. Everything until the end is simply amazing. I didn't cry, but I did have chills.

Conclusion 10/10

Is it perfect? Not quite, but its pretty darn close. Everybody should pick up this issue.

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Review: Batman and Robin #17

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Life Is But a Dream

I'm going to have to address a spoiler from Batman #17 to talk about this month's Batman and Robin. I don't think it will be a major revelation, but if you are eager to preserve every second of surprise from the conclusion of Death of the Family, then turn back now because the rest of this review is not safe.

Damian is alive! Rejoice Robin fans...at least until Morrison completes his run on Batman, Incorporated and murders the brat there. Relax, I'm just kidding. I love the brat as much as the next guy, and let's hope he has not been spared Joker's crowbar to die at the hands of Leviathan.

I really have no idea what to expect from Tomasi anymore. His run started off amazing, became mediocre, got down right shoddy for awhile, and then boosted back up to being really great, so I am officially labeling this series a wild card. Does our young hero use his new lease on life to have an inspiring adventure, or is this a muddling story written just to string as along the series until Robin's soon coming death?

In this issue, Robin, Batman and Alfred are all haunted by their own nightmares.

Odd

This was a very odd issue, so I'm going to use a fairly odd reviewing pattern and just break up my reivew into the different sections of the story.

First, Tomasi seems to be keeping with the same strategy he used in the Batman and Robin Annual of focusing on the Damian, Bruce, and Alfred. Though he is still the least focused on of the three, it feels right for Alfred to get a little more of a starring role in a Batman series, and it makes sense that it would be in this book which is the most family based title in the Batman lineup. It's about darn time somebody started writing some good Alfred stories, and I hope Tomasi continues to deliver.

At the beginning of this issue, we see Batman and Robin come home and go through their cool down routine. Its a nice scene with lots of little nods to deeper personal interactions. Though the act of coming home after a night of fighting would be exceptional to most people, you get the feeling that this is just an everyday experience for them. Bruce and Damian chow down on sandwiches back to back almost appearing to ignore one another, yet Damian is using his dad as a support as he slouches back. Even the little differences of the three as they drift off to dream land is carefully thought out.

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Damian's Dreams

We have a throwback to the Zero issue with Damian riding in a submarine while drowned bodies float outside. Instead of being random unidentified victims though, these are all heroes and villains from the Batman world, and two Damians are holding two different versions of a Batman cowl, one with and one without a head. There is definitely an element of Damian fighting with his two natures in the scene, yet at the same time, they are not truly fighting. It's like he has come to an almost peaceful acceptance on his fundamental conflicted nature. Neither side is clearly victorious or openly hostile to the other, yet his more violent side seems to be urging Damian to slaughter his new family. “There's nothing more any of them can teach us,” he says. It seems that Talia's darker instincts, to use and discard people as tools, are influencing Damian's thinking even until today though it is equally clear that part of Damian is horrified at the idea of turning on his new family.

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The double nature of Damian continues to play out in the next section of the dream where Damian appears to be about to crush a robin much as he did the bat early in the current volume of the series, but he then turns merciful and follows the path of the Robin which leads him inevitably to the presence of Batman. Again, we get a nod to Batman: Year One with the bell, and there is also a definite feeling of Morrison's work with the demonic looking bat clinging to Batman's back rummaging up images of Bat Mite's true form hiding just out of sight in Batman R.I.P. It's a creepy scene and when Batman asks Damian to join him, its not really clear if it is Bruce talking or the Bat. Also, the Bat is clearly feeding off of Bruce which makes this an extremely complicated symbolism. I suppose more so than anything else, it represents the double nature of Batman. He is a man and bat, a monster of sorts. Does the man wear the bat or does the bat wear the man? Damian has been asked to join this great cause, yet it seems to feed off everyone who enlists.

Alfred's Dream

Alfred's dream appears to be a lot more straightforward. I get the feeling that the first part is an actual memory, and we get a focus on the pearls yet again which is beginning to feel a bit overdone as a reference point for the Wayne's death. I wonder if all this pearl focus is leading somewhere.

(Spoiler) After the memory section of the dream, Alfred then descends down into the darker elements of the Wayne household and confronts Joker by blowing his head off in an extremely comical and gruesome scene. Alfred jerks awake in shock and horror, yet he then falls asleep with a smile on his face, so it appears Alfred has some darker instincts he is dealing with as well.

Batman's Dreams

Everything else in this review happens in the back half of the issue, so only read on if you don't mind the spoilers. Otherwise, skip to the conclusion.

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I thought this section was a bit of a let down because though it has some subtext, it does not add anything particularly new to our understanding of Batman. To be fair, it's hard to add anything to Batman. Bruce remembers his parents deaths and there is the focus on the pearls again. He makes a paper boat from the flyer for Mark of Zorro. I think this represents Bruce taking the pain he felt on the night of his parents' deaths and trying to deal with it by using vigilantism. Bruce is counseled by the hopelessness of this action by his father, “You can't just build a boat, son, and hope darkness magically sales away in it.” I love Bruce's entitled answer to this. “Why not? It's my boat.”

The metaphor then gets a little messy. Batman is on the paper boat, he's caught in the flow which is pushing him further away, he loses track of his parents, and all the villains try to pile on to his paper boat, but really, what does any of this mean? I can see some significance in Batman's “boat,” his idea of vigilantism, rushing out of control, but did he really lose his parents from this action? I don't think so. If anything he clings to their memory more because of Batman. Are the villains trying to get on the boat really messing things up for Batman? No, I would say in the metaphorical sense, they are aiding him by giving him purpose and a sense of righteousness. It would have been more apt in my view if the villains were the crew of his ship or his slave labor.

Then, the giant Joker whale eats the ship which is pretty transparent. I get that he's a monumental villain, and I guess it sort of makes sense that Joker destroys everything Batman represents, but it seems a bit much to me.

Yet Damian gives Bruce a hand, a lifeline, and lifts him up. Even when everything else falls apart. Damian is there to lift him up.

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Aftermath

Bruce checks on Damian, and that is a sweet moment, but I felt Damian's final dream kind of brought everything down a notch. Damian basically dreams of his everyday life as Robin, and he says that this is a dream in which he is willing to stay. In some respects, it's cool that Damian is content with his present state, but after seeing that all the characters of this story are so clearly torn in their emotions, loyalties and desires, it feels insincere to see such a tidy ending to this story as if everything is okay.

Conclusion 8/10

This is a really interesting issue. At first glance, it might seem like just a bunch of dream sequences with no substance behind them, but there is more to it than first meets the eye. If it had an ending which better addressed the conflicts represented in the issue, it would be great, but the ending feels a bit weak to me, so I've got so say the issue is merely good. If you are a fan of the series or want a more intimate take on the Bat Family, you should definitely pick this issue up.

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Review: Batman and Robin Annual #1

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Batman Impossible

Normally when I introduce a comic, I talk about what has been going on previously in the series, but since this is an annual, I really have no idea what to expect. Sure, I could cheat and read the solicits, but I like being surprised. We know this issue cannot be taking place chronologically with the regular series since the last time we saw Damian, he was being dragged God knows where by Joker, so unless this issue features forty pages of Robin waiting for Batman to show up so we can find out what is under the darn platter, I'm guessing this issue probably took place earlier. The cover is also interesting having Damian wearing his grown up Batman uniform even though he is still a child, and unless I am mistaken, this cover is an homage to an earlier future Damian story. Anyway, I'm prepped and ready for this issue. Does Batman and Robin Annual #1 deliver a win or a fail?

In this issue, Damian sends Bruce on a worldwide scavenger hunt down memory's lane where the world's greatest detective reconnects with some secrets from his parents' past. Meanwhile, Damian dons the cape and cowl to guard Gotham while Bruce is gone.

A Comedy Tonight!

This is by far the funniest comic I have read in a long, long time. That is including the recent Li'l Gotham comics. Tomasi, the writer, does an amazing job keeping the serious tone that the series had during the Nobody run and yet putting the characters in scenarios that lead to huge laughs. Sometimes when a writer tries to be funny, he or she sets up some ridiculous situation which might be humorous but ruins the serious nature of the comic, but here, the humor comes from the personalities of the individual characters, and that takes skill.

The dialogue really shines in this issue. Some people have pinged Tomasi in the past losing Bruce's voice and making him a little bit of a ham, but in this issue, he sounds just right. Furthermore, if you love those tender and funny moments between Alfred and Bruce, then you will love this issue because it is jam packed full of those moments. I am frustrated because I want to give examples of some funny lines, yet at the same time, they are often context specific, so I cannot really do them justice with little snippets, and besides that, I do not want to ruin them for you when you read them for the first time. Just take my word for it; this issue is hilarious.

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Development for Everybody!

Seeing this story slow down a little and really focus on personal moments for all the characters rather than just the typical “Action, action, action!” found in many comics made me really wish we could get a longer format for more stories. I suppose that is not really possible due to artistic constraints, but at least Tomasi takes advantage of his the annual here and takes plenty of time to develop all three characters featured in this issue, Damian, Bruce, and Alfred. With Damian, we get to see him develop in terms of compassion and altruism, and the poor kid has finally learned how to open up and share. Similarly, we get to see Bruce struggle with how to be a good dad which is something that has strangely appeared very little since his discovery of Damian's existence. In addition to fathering woes, Bruce does get some very nice gifts from Damian which force him to reflect. We almost never see any development from Alfred which is one of the many reasons this issue is such a treat. Alfred decides to reconnect with his past acting buddies which leads him to consider what he might have missed while in service to the Wayne family.

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The Art Corner

The art looked really good in this issue without a bad panel in the nearly forty pages. Ardian Syaf (previous penciler of Batgirl {2011}) handles the pencils, and he does a great job. Expressions are very important in this issue since so much of it deals with peoples reactions and interactions, and Syaf presents them well. The inking looks good, and the colors are quite striking and vivid as well, but I did feel like the colors did not always blend well from page to page. There were some instances where the art went from such a dark tone to so incredibly bright that I actually thought there might have been an artistic change in the middle of the issue, but apparently, colorist John Kalisz (former colorist for JSA and Detective Comcis {2011}) just likes to work like that. It's not bad in any way, but it did surprise me at times.

Nitpicks

I did have two little complaints on the issue. First, Batman mentions, “Taking a page from the Mr. Freeze handbook,” yet I did not see anything in his actions that explained what he meant by that. It seems like there might have been one other piece of dialogue somewhere in the issue I did not follow. (Spoiler) Second, it is never explained how Damian new of so many things from his grandparents past. There are certainly plausible explanations, but none were ever made.

Conclusion 10/10

This issue is hilarious and heartwarming. Plus, it has a little action. There is no reason not to love this issue, and I fully recommend you pick it up.

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Review: Batman and Robin #16

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Cast a Giant Shadow

The last issue of Batman and Robin was one of the best tie ins to Death of the Family thus far. In addition to having excellent interaction between Damian and Joker, it left us with a massive tease as it appeared that Robin was about to have to face off with the Dark Knight. Given that there has been no time for Bruce to attack Damian, I am even more skeptical now than I was last week that this is really Bruce Wayne, but still, this issue is primed for greatness. Does Batman and Robin deliver the fight of the century, or is it over before it even begins?

In this issue, Robin fights Batman for Joker's amusement.

Too Much Action

I know that comic books are often defined by their frequent need for violence, but one of the things that made the last issue of Batman and Robin stand above the crowd is that it focused more on creative dialogue between Damian and Joker, and by creative, I mean it went beyond the standard, “You are weakening the Bat King,” nonsense that Joker has been espousing. In contrast, this issue had almost nothing going on underneath the surface.

As soon as I saw Bats coming out of the pile of creepy crawlies last issue, I began to wonder if it was really Bruce, yet Robin never even considers the possibility. Damian is awfully young, and he is not known for his cool, calm analysis, so I guess it is not surprising that he failed to consider all the possibilities, but if Damian had considered that angle, it would have added some dimension to the otherwise flat story. Damian sort of fights Batman, sort of runs away, and sort of tries to reason with Bruce while Joker watches. That is ninety percent of this issue. If Damian had considered that it was a trick, at least that would have given something else for the story to explore.

Screenshot from 2013-01-16 16:31:37.png

Gleason Style Horror

Thankfully, Gleason and the rest of the art team did a good job with the visuals. Though, sadly, Joker does not do anything as creative as turning his face upside down, he still manages to look very creepy with black eyes and a face stretched so tightly it might tear at any moment. The fights have a decent sense of motion, and many panels manage to convey some surprise such as when Batman tackles Robin from out nowhere. The set pieces are neat though it seems like the zoo could have provided a more elaborate battle. There are lots of panels which really strike that horrific chord with the middle panel on the first page being one of my favorites. There is also one with a spider on Bruce's mouth which disturbs me. (I don't like bugs) The way Joker is lurking in the background of many panels is also disturbing since he is not the main focus, and you can miss him at a first glance making his presence more ominous when found.

The Serving Tray


(spoiler) This issue ends the same way as Batman ended, with Joker teasing something under a serving tray. I have a feeling that Batgirl, Nightwing, RHATO and Teen Titans are also going to end with that same image. We know that all Batman's kids except Damian are present and accounted after Death of the Family, so that would seem to imply that it is Alfred's head on the platter, but it would be so obvious for Alfred to die that I just can't picture it happening. The good writers always try to keep you looking at their right hand while pulling something out with their left. If it looks like Alfred is going to die, then he is probably the least likely person to buy the farm. The only other thing I can imagine is that it is not a head at all but some sort of secret being revealed, but what could that be? It looks like we have one more month before we find out.

Bat Dropping

(Spoiler) It was nice to see Damian show some character development, lay down his weapon, and make a sacrifice. Granted, he could have just run away, but still, it was one of the few substantive things that happened this issue.

Conclusions 8/10

I wish there was more to say, but there is not. This issue was light on the substance. However, it did deliver a fairly entertaining battle and some really good art without any glaring mistakes. (unlike this month's Batman) If you are a fan of Batman and Robin or Death of the Family, pick up this issue.

Review: Batman and Robin #15

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Little Big Man

The last two issues of Batman and Robin have been vastly disappointing and nonsensical. Anybody who read Tomasi’s original Batman and Robin story for the DCNU knows that he can write, but his recent material has seemed rather soulless. Nonetheless, I am very excited for this issue simply because I suspect Damian might be the one to die in Death of the Family, and if that is the case, it would stand to reason that this month’s tie in to Death of the Family will be a very important chapter. Does Tomasi step up to deliver an excellent story, or is he going through the motions?

In this issue, Damian disobeys Batman’s orders to sit out the Joker crisis and chases down a lead to the Gotham zoo. After doing battle with some hyenas, Damian comes face to face with the Clown Prince of Crime.

Joker’s Comedy Club

I think this might be my favorite presentation of the Joker so far in Death of the Family. All of the other tie ins to Death of the Family focus on the protagonist, and Joker only shows up occasionally to move the plot along, but here, Robin shares the spotlight with Joker, and the two sing a beautiful duet together. In a very real sense, this issue is nothing but a conversation between the Boy Wonder and the Clown Prince of Crime. It is almost as if Joker put a pin in the conversation the two held back in the police station in the first volume of Batman and Robin wherein Damian tried to beat Joker’s brains out, and Joker now pulls the pin back out and says, “Now what were we saying?”

Throughout the entire conversation, Joker’s movements and words resound perfectly. Joker finds new ways to use his face to disturbing effect. In fact, you might not want to read this issue if you are particularly weak stomached because you will see maggots crawling all over Joker’s face which is apparently beginning to rot. As Joker moves about unpredictably, he continues to make his case that Batman does not need a Robin, and despite his best efforts, Joker finds ways of getting underneath Damian’s skin. The whole conversation, which takes up most of the issue, is very well done.

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Sigh

Despite how much I enjoyed the core of this story, the surface had some things I did not much appreciate. The conversation between Joker and Damian is all that really mattered in this issue, yet we take six pages to get to that point. I might be nitpicking, but it seemed to me that is could have been done much faster. Then, there is the fact that there is a giant egg in this issue, and I do mean giant. Like…a dinosaur egg or something, and there is no explanation whatsoever for it. What the heck? There is also one panel (page 13, panel 1) where Robin’s cape is defying gravity. Again, it’s a small thing, but it bugged me. Finally, this issue appears to have been guest edited by Fear Factor because there are big, gross, creepy crawlies over everything. I get that it somewhat makes sense in the context and that Joker and the creative team were playing up the aspect of Robin being a robin, but it got to the point that I felt like the creative team was just trying to gross out readers.

In This Corner…

The next issue sets up for an apparently epic fight, and though it is a simple premise, I am very intrigued.

(Spoiler) At the end of the issue, it appears that Robin will have to fight Batman under the influence of a Joker toxin. This raises a lot of questions. How did Batman get caught and drugged, and how does this tie in to the rest of the Death of the Family? Is this really Batman, or could it be just someone dressed in a Batman costume? (which is my personal guess) If it is Batman, will he be able to fight the effects giving Damian a fair chance? If this is Batman in his prime, we know Damian would have no chance of winning, but would he be capable of escaping from a Batman intent on killing him?

To answer all of those questions, I must say that I have no idea, but it should be fun to find out next issue.

Conclusion 8/10

This issue is way better than the last, but it still has some hiccups which made what could have been an excellent issue simply good. Still, it is a safe purchase for either Damian Wayne or Death of the Family fans. 

Batman and Robin #14

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Batman and Robin #14

In the past month, I have read the first nine issues of the DCNU Batman and Robin, and I must say, I am shocked at how far this series has fallen since its original stellar story arc. The recent issues of Batman and Robin have been okay, but they are not nearly as high quality as the early issues. Batman and Robin #13 was downright bad having no real point, at least one major plot hole, and a slew of zombies for no apparent reason. Does this next issue pack a little meat on its bones, or does it contain little more than gnashing of teeth?

In this issue, Batman subdues a bunch of zombies and Robin leads some civilians to safety.

Torn

This is one of those issues where I felt severely torn. Often times when this happens, the good and bad are mashed up in such a way that it is impossible to pick them apart and define what exactly works or fails to work about a particular story. That is not the case this time. I can tell you exactly what does and does not work.

Specifically, the zombies screw up this story. They serve no purpose whatsoever. The Saturn Society has no motivation, and their leadership and methodology is still sketchy at best. The zombies constantly say “Live to eat,” and personally, I felt like dozing off after reading that line for the dozenth time. Even the zombies themselves are shrouded in mystery. Are they magically possessed? Infected? What is happening?

At the same time, not all was bad with this issue.

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Action!

There was solid action in this issue. Zombies make excellent punching bags as long as they are not infectious, and Damian made good use of the zombies as sparring partners. I also rather enjoyed Batman spraying sedatives out of his gauntlet. The elevator scene was fun though it is completely impossible for several reasons. Nonetheless, the issue delivered on the action front.

The Heart

This issue has a surprise touchy feely moment at the end which hit home. Following all the silliness which is the basic plot of this story, it caught me off guard, and it answered a question left dangling from last issue.

Death of a Damian?

(Spoiler)

This issue turns out to be another tie in to “Death of a Family,” but it feels extremely shoehorned into the plot. Personally, I would just as soon do without the Joker element. Also, Batman’s explanation of Joker’s involvement made no sense.

Conclusion 6/10

This issue is a fun brain off kind of adventure with a gooey delicious bit of heart-warming snuck into the end. If you can take the story for what it is, it is a worthwhile read. 

Review: Batman and Robin #13

Eclipsed

Batman and Robin has been a fun though not particularly deep series. Damian is always entertaining; even those that hate Damian love to hate him. Last month’s zero issue was especially good giving readers an action packed look into Damian’s bloody origin. However, this is a new month and a completely new story arc. Does this new chapter elevate Batman and son to even greater heights, or do the bat and bird take a drastic plunge in quality?

While the threat of Joker hangs over Gotham’s head, a new problem pops up for the caped crusader…zombies? While Batman investigates, Robin sets off on an independent project.

Needs More Cowbell!

What do you do when you have four different good ideas for a plot and you cannot decide which you want to use? Why, you smash them all together in one barely comprehensible glob, of course!

This story is practically schizophrenic. The plot elements introduced (but not resolved) include the following:

1. Damian and Bruce preparing for battle with Joker

2. Batman teaching Robin how to repair a spy satellite

3. Some group starts creating zombies

SPOILER WARNING: Click here to reveal hidden content.

4. Damian disobeying orders to work on some unknown project

5. Father and son tense over Damian disobeying orders

6. Robin defending himself against people wanting to collect the bounty on his head

That is a lot of conflict for twenty pages, and the narrative winds its way from one plot line to another like a stumbling drunk.

The Bat Space Shuttle? Really?

I've complained recently that Batman has been relying a bit too much of technology. Cool gadgets have their place, but having an electromagnet which can knock out an entire street gang by sticking them to a train is not that far removed from Bat Shark Repellent.

In that same vein, I think having Bruce be able to easily launch himself into space is a bit much. Having him launch from the middle of Gotham without being noticed due to his “cloaking device” is ludicrous. Having him go up in space, adjust his satellite, and then return to Earth during a solar eclipse is physically impossible.

At most, an eclipse can last seven and a half minutes. If I can figure that out in fifteen seconds of googling, how can a writer fail to do a little research when he has months to plan out his story? I can only assume that Tomasi simply does not care, and I find that disappointing.

The One Improvement

The only way I can see as the book has improved at all is in the dialogue department. Tomasi’s writing of Bruce was off in issue twelve, but Batman is back to form in this issue. Damian, as always, sounds just right.

Conclusion 4/10

I was massively disappointed in this issue. There is a possibility that Tomasi has a way of bringing all of these disparate plot elements together, but he has not done so in a satisfying manner thus far.

Batman and Robin #0

Someday Never Comes

I’m not really all that tantalized by “Zero Month.” I saw this trick back in the nineties, and the stories it produced were not exceptional. This time around, DC is touting Zero Month as an opportunity to explore characters’ back stories, but that is something DC should have been doing from day one of the DCNU as far as I am concerned.

That being said, I was actually genuinely excited for the zero issue of Batman and Robin because Damian is one of the most mysterious characters in the DC universe. Sure, we know where he originated, but his life before he met Batman is wrapped in shadows. Since father and son’s exploits have been well documented since they first met, I was hoping that this zero issue would dive into the murky waters of Damian’s past and finally shed a light on how this little sociopathic soul developed.

In this issue, we see how Talia and the League of Assassins shaped Damian into the finely honed weapon he is today.

Answered Prayers

In short, this issue gave me exactly what I wanted. For only a twenty page story, the writer does a great job of giving readers a good sense of Damian’s whole life.

We get a better Talia story here than has been delivered in years. We see her crazed dedication to making her son a man like no other, yet at the same time, we see her motherly care over her young child. Talia’s relationship with Damian is exactly what I would expect from the daughter of Ra’s Al Ghul; she shapes him to be ruler of the world crafting heroes for him such as Alexander the Great. For his part, Damian is on a mission to discover the identity of his father, and he is willing to kill anybody between him and the truth.

Surprises with Talia

Talia is much more eager to kill than I have ever envisioned her. In my previous understanding of the character, I always thought that she agreed with her father about the need to purge society of its more crass elements, and I also thought she agreed that society needed a ruler, yet this ruler must be benevolent. In other words, there are better ways of controlling the world than wanton murder in Talia’s view.

However, Talia spills quite a lot of blood in raising her son, and it is all completely cold-blooded. This view of the character does make more sense in terms of Talia’s arc in Batman Incorporated, but I still feel that this is the wrong direction for that character. There are plenty of villains in the world willing to use force. Talia used to have a decidedly more feminine touch to her villainy, but that is less the case now.

Surprises with Damian

I was aware that Damian was raised by the League of Assassins and had previously taken human life, but d***. I thought he had only killed on a rare occasion, but in this issue alone he must have sliced up at least a dozen men. All of his victims were assassins, so it was not as if he killed in cold blood, but still, the level of violence in this book surprised me…in a good way. I actually think this is an excellent direction for the character; it only makes sense that human life would mean little to a child raised by assassins. Also, the action itself sells the concept because Damian is brutal and the artists make his most violent acts beautiful in their own grisly way. In particular, there is a moment where Damian uses submachine guns and the moon to great effect, and I wanted to cheer when I saw that scene.

Give the Artists Their Due

The artwork was also extremely well done. I do not have the best understanding of art, so I usually do not go in depth on this topic, but I do know enough to say that the art was dynamic and exciting. The layouts for the pages were very well done giving exactly the right amount of space for each panel. Good comic art tells a story just in the way the panels are framed, and the artists did many things I thought worked quite well in this issue such as the two page spread which demonstrated the up and down grind of Damian’s day to day training and disappointments.

Perfection Is a Rare Thing

This was a great issue, but not a perfect one. Though the art was generally excellent, there was one panel which looked downright awful, and that was the first panel showing Talia. She looked bad! Really, really bad! She looked so bad that I thought perhaps multiple pencilers worked on this issue, but that is not the case. The only excuse I can think for this panel is that Damian was a newborn, and perhaps it was meant to convey how Talia looked through the eyes of Damian, but it just succeeded in looking weird.

Uh…What?

Also, there were a couple of moments which made absolutely no sense. Right after Damian is born, Talia places him in a pool of water…with the water over his head and…she leaves him there. She says something about, “Show me you have the will,” but no explanation for this is ever given. What will is he supposed to have? I’m not a pediatrician, but I’m pretty sure that any infant you put in a bath of water is going to drown. Regardless, no explanation for Talia’s behavior was given.

Later in the issue, Talia and Damian are on a submarine and they are looking out at a bunch of bodies floating at the bottom of the ocean. Was the submarine moving at the time because they were supposed to be traveling to London? If the boat was moving, why were they so close to the bottom and why did they just happen to travel by these dead bodies? If the boat was parked, that still does not explain the bodies. One appeared to have some sort of uniform. Is this the crew that originally ran the submarine? If so, why were the bodies in various states of decomposition? Did the League of Shadows periodically drop enemies of the League into this dumping ground next to their submarine, and if so, don't you think that would arouse suspicion? Again, no explanation is given.

Conclusion    10/10

Despite my complaints, I actually really liked this issue. Thus far, Batman and Robin has not been the most perfectly written book of the DC universe, but it has been a lot of fun, and really, what more can a comic fan desire?

Batman and Robin #12

Terminus Last Gasp

This is my first issue of Batman and Robin since the DCNU began. I read and enjoyed all the Batman and Robin issues pre-Flashpoint, but this is my first taste of father and son working together. Does the Dynamic Duo still have the same chemistry with Damian and Bruce as it did with Damian and Dick?

Unfortunately, I do not know because the two were hardly together in this entire issue. This issue starts off with a fight between Batman and Robin, and approximately a billion bad guys under the leadership of a villain named Terminus. Terminus wants Batman dead for some reason which is never really explained in this issue. Batman and Robin immediately split up to take out the villains, and the fight quickly takes on ridiculous proportions. I could go on, but to give more away would be telling.

The Sarcasta-Bat

If this is how Damian’s partnership has changed Batman, I’m not sure I like it. I’ve often wished that Bruce could express a little more levity while in the suit, but in this issue, Batman was downright snarky. I don’t believe it is in character for Batman to constantly mock his enemy, but I did find myself enjoying many of the Sarcasta-Bat’s quips. I especially appreciated when Terminus said, “Look at me and say my name,” and Batman responded, “No idea…who the H*** you are.” I would not mind an occasional smug jibe, but Batman should not be a comedian, and this issue took things a bit far…in more ways than one.

Seriously?

I hate it when comic writers have human characters perform superhuman feats, and having Batman survive the first minute of his battle with Terminus fits that profile. Terminus wears some sort of huge mechanized suit which gives him superhuman strength. Consequently, Batman is repeatedly whipped against buildings at what must have been a hundred miles an hour after he foolishly attaches a line to Terminus’ suit. Bruce would be dead, dead, dead, dead, dead.

Things get even more out of hand when Bruce runs to the Batmobile and deploys the “Augmentation Suit,” a mechanized exoskeleton which matches and exceeds the abilities of Terminus. In addition to giving Batman the ability to beat Terminus without breaking a sweat, the Augmentation Suit also manages to propel Bruce fast enough to chase down a missile and steer it clear of Gotham…a trick we have already seen performed by superheroes twice this summer. I do not find it out of character for Bruce to have such a suit which augments his abilities; in fact, some readers will remember seeing this kind of thing in previous issues, but it does seem like this suit was a little too suited to the situation, and I have trouble believing that the Batmobile could carry a suit that heavy and still manage to move faster than twenty miles an hour.

On the Flip Side

On the positive side of the equation, this issue has good dialogue with the exception of Batman’s humor. Damian continues to show character development, and fans were able to witness something many have longed to see, all four Robins fighting side by side.

Conclusion 7/10

In the end, this issue was shallow but fun. It should not win any awards, but I cannot imagine any Damian fans will be too disappointed.