BatWatch Review: Detective Comics #24 - State of Shock

State of Shock

I'm just doing a super short review since I'm so far behind on reviews.

I haven't enjoyed the Warth arc so far in Detective Comics, so I was not expecting much from this issue. When I heard Layman say that he pulled out all the stops and just went crazy with action in this issue, I  mentally rolled my eyes figuring he had just phoned in the issue. However, I found this story to be a surprisingly invigorating read. Layman didn't lie when he said he simply went for broke and threw in a bunch of awesome set piece moments. Coupling Layman's cool ideas with Fabok's pencils and colors that seemed less drab than the past two issues went a long way towards redeeming the arc.

The plot was still not great. (Spoilers) Why did Wrath leave an off switch to his trap? Why did it take six minutes for the devices to kill the police officers? Doesn't Wrath know he should password protect his computer? Everybody has a freakin' password on their smart phones for crying out loud!

Despite this, the cool action did a lot to mitigate these faults. 

Conclusion 8/10

More Recent Reviews

Teen Titans Annual #2 - My Future, My Enemy

 Detective Comics #24 - State of Shock

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: Detective Comics #23.4 - Man-Bat

I'm just doing a super short review since I'm so far behind.  

Man-Bat was a really good Villains Month issue with a lot of tragedy and a little mystery. At first glance, it appears to be the story of Kirk Langstrom's downfall, and unquestionably, there is some of the in it, but shortly after reading it, I found myself wondering again if Langstrom's actions were really that bad. We see Langstrom doing things which are probably hideous, but since we are not given the context leading up to the encounters or the aftermath, there's actually room to view Man-Bat as an antihero. It's probably not the most likely interpretation, but you can make the case.

The art was great though I didn't care for Kirk sweating blue liquid or him cradling a beaker as if he were Gollum with The One Ring. 

Conclusion 9/10

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: Detective Comics #23.3 - Scarecrow

City of Fear

Scarecrow is often considered one of Batman's greatest villains, but in recent years, he seems to have become a bit too predictable relying on the same formula for all his crimes. Perhaps this story can break the mold and take Scarecrow to the next level.

Is Scarecrow #1 a gas or just an empty burlap sack?  

In this issue, Scarecrow visits the districts of Gotham controlled by other super villains, but to what end? 

Clever But Wordy

Scarecrow's Villains' Month title is one of the few that actually has some bearing on Forever Evil and the upcoming battle in Arkham War, and it deserves a lot of credit for that and for telling an interesting story that does not follow the typical, "Let me tell you my origin," or "Look how bad I am!" mold of most Villains' titles. That being said, it is so incredibly verbose as compared to most modern comics that it feels like you are slogging through it page by page. It's not an unpleasant slog, but it's not exactly the light reading generally associated with comics. Whether that is good or bad to you depends on what you want from a comic book.  

As for me, I enjoyed it a lot, but I had some reservations. The limitations of Scarecrow's personality and abilities are in clear display as his response to every civilian and threat is to let loose his fear toxin. I'm not suggesting that Crane should learn jujitsu, but running away would be more entertaining than watching people scream because a cloud touched them. It's been done to death. Also, Scarecrow lures people to his army in a way that would be more compelling if it were not so completely transparent. I have a hard time believing that all the villains would have been this easy to persuade.

Conclusions 8/10

It's a story that is on the verge of being a strain because of Crane's long winded prattling and his predictable physical interactions, but it does a good job of setting up for Arkham War and it shows how the unlikeliest of leaders became a general in the upcoming conflict.  

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: Detective Comics #23.2 - Harley Quinn

Harley Lives

When I see Harley Quinn on the cover, I kind of want to tell her that she must go back to her room and only come when she's wearing some real clothes. Does that mean I'm getting old? 

Despite my disdain for Harley Quinn's current outfit, (I mean, seriously? Seriously!) I do very much want to see Harley Quinn's solo series succeed, and this could obviously help with that. In fact, I'm kind of surprised DC did not put Harley's Villains' Month title in Batman instead of 'Tec to give it a little more exposure, but since when has DC started done things that make sense?

This issue is supposedly going to explore Harley's DCNU past. I know almost nothing about her new continuity, so this should be interesting.  

Does Harley Quinn #1 get our engines revving for her ongoing series or does it give fans one more reason to distrust DC's handling of Harley.  

In this issue, we get a glimpse into the past of Harleen Quinzel.

The Anatomy of a Psycho Skank Ho!

Well, this sucked. I'm tremendously disappointed.  

Matt Kindt  (current writer of Detective Comics, Earth 2, Justice League of America, The Hunt and Dark Horse's Mind MGMT) is a fairly accomplished writer, but I cannot say I enjoyed much that happened in this issue.  

The nature of Harley is explained....sort of, but it's not at all convincing. We see that Harley grew up in a chaotic household, but she wanted to be better, to be controlled, to be separate from her family. This really feels as if it needs more than a page of exploration. Why did Harley want to be different? Usually, kids end up being a lot like their parents. What set her on a different path? 

We then see Harley is accomplished as a psychologist and wants to work with the very elite mental cases of Arkham as a challenge. I buy that just fine, but when we get to the Joker we find that Harley's infatuation with the Clown Prince of Crime is not a process of him wooing her and breaking her resolve. It's as if she looks at him once and goes totally insane. I guess you might approach it from that love at first sight angle, but the first sight is not charming at all. Joker looks creepy as all get out, and for someone who was supposedly sane at the moment of seeing him to suddenly go insane for that creeper makes no sense. The rest of Harley's time with Joker is just a train wreck in that it shows nothing but misery in their relationship. Harley is supposed to think the world of her puddin', yet there is not a single moment shows you anything that would make Harley attracted to the freak.  

I've always taken it that Harley has overlooked Joker's failings as a romantic partner because he's so charming in other ways. He pays attention to her, he often acts as if she is extremely important and tells her so, he's smart enough to go against the Batman, he's someone who really enjoys life to its fullest, and he's not bound down and restrained like the common man. There are things that, if you look at them askew, can seem admirable about the Joker and his treatment of Harley, but here, we just see Joker taking advantage of this poor girl, and there is nothing of the slightest charm to be found in his acts.

We then see Harley assembling her outfit because...I don't know. I guess Kindt thought that was what fans were wanting. At last, we find the origin of each piece of her costume!

Harley apparently does not know how to shop, so she just assaults people with the clothes she likes and takes them. That would actually be kind of funny if it was not clear she were killing or seriously maiming these people. I'm okay with Harley hurting other bad guys, trying to kill a hero who attempts to stop her or accidentally injuring an innocent through carelessness, but if Harley just goes around killing people for fun, then that moves her from being a dangerous but lovable fool to being a monster, and that is a bad move for the character.

 (Spoilers until Conclusion) Finally, we get caught up to the present where things are more slowly paced. Eventually, we see Harley donate a bunch of handheld gaming devices to a Goodwill type store which is a really nice moment of showing that Harley Quinn is crazy and does do bad things, but she often does bad things for a good reason. Again, she's a dangerous but lovable fool. However, Kindt does not think so because before this scene can conclude, Kindt has Harley kill a couple of security guards and then download a program into the gaming devices which triggers an explosive and kills hundreds of kids.

The end. (except for a page promo for Forever Evil)

If I were the average consumer and read this issue, there is no way I would ever pick up an issue of Harley Quinn again. Who wants to read this?

Conclusion 3/10

If you thought Harley Quinn was ruined by previous DCNU changes, you will really hate this issue. It absolutely ruins what should be a fun character by giving her an incredibly flimsy origin and making her a heartless killer. Skip this issue.  

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: Detective Comics #23.1 - Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy

I'm skipping the long form reviews in order to save some time with all the comics out today, so let me just hit some highlights on this issue.

Planting Some New Seed

Poison Ivy gets a new origin here, and though I generally hate reboots, I have to say that I'm not too annoyed with this new origin. In fact, I'll go a step further and admit that this origin is actually much better than her previous one.

Through this issue, we see all that plants mean to Poison Ivy. They are her solace, her tools, her hiding place, and her vengeance, and through our window to her past, we see these aspects of her personality take new context and greater meaning. You truly understand what has pushed Ivy in the direction she has chosen for her life, and it's scores better than her previous origin of being her professor's experiment.

The art by Javier Pina (former artist for Birds of Prey and penciler for Manhunter and current artist for Detective Comics)  is perfect, and I found myself adoring it by the end. I've always been saddened that Poison Ivy is made to look like a trashy character most of the time with a body that screams sex object, and I feel that's the wrong approach to the character. She uses her sex appeal to her advantage, but she can do it in a much more subtle way than by flashing her boobs at everyone. Plus, she can cheat with pheromones, so she doesn't really need it  

Beyond the more modest dress though, Pina brings an elegance to Ivy as an adult as if she is the actual Queen of her jungle, and in her flashback scenes as a child, she seems more like a pixie, innocent and yet not truly. Pamela is the child who seems nice but has something secret and deadly locked away in her heart.  

As for her exploits in the present, they are truly impressive. There were a couple of scenes in this issue where I found myself going, "Wow. I've never seen her pull out that trick."  From a purely powers standpoint, this issue really pushes her to the next level rivaling her coolest feats.

Sadly, she kills...a lot. I get killing people who harm you, and I see that she is willing to kill those that hurt her beloved plants, but when Ivy starts killing those whose only crime is passing her on the street, then she is just being generically evil, and that should always be avoided. It's not really an illegitimate interpretation of the character; she's previously been portrayed as someone who has no love for humanity, but it's not my ideal version of Ivy, so I find it just a tad disappointing to see her stoop to the typical, "Kill 'em all," tactics.  

Conclusion 9/10

Surprisingly, this is the best comic I've read thus far today. If you have ever found Poison Ivy to be an interesting character, you should definitely pick this one up.  

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: Detective Comics #23

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Bat and Mouse

The Wrath is a villain ripe with potential, but so far, I have not been impressed by Layman's (current writer of Image's Chew, IDW's Mars Attacks and Detective Comics) current arc featuring the Anti-Batman. I did think the setup was cool making Caldwell a business rival and a mover and a shaker in the Gotham social scene in addition to making him merely a slaughterer of police officers, but beyond the original villain setup, I've found little of greatness. Scorn, the Anti-Robin, had potential, but then Wrath killed him because that's what stereotypical villains do. The 'Tec Annual did some cool stuff with Jane Doe, but Wrath's backing of her felt like little more than an afterthought. The arc has been a worthwhile read as a whole, but I'm hoping this issue steps it up a notch or two.

Does this Bat and Wrath game finally lead to some worthy surprises or are these antics about as predictable as an episode of Tom and Jerry?

In this issue, Batman and Alfred take the investigation to Caldwell Industries.

Dadgummit! 

I really wanted to like this issue more, but I'll be darned if Layman didn't go ahead and disappoint me again.  

On the good front, this issue does actually fair a little better than the last two. The story does not seem to have any filler unlike the last regular issue. There is a nice balance between story and action, and Layman even takes time to give us a little more depth on Scorn putting that character and his death in perspective while moving the issue forward. Batman finally mixes it up with The Wrath himself; though Wrath is still a coward and runs off, it is nice to see the two meet face to face. The story amps up nicely building off that which came earlier and taking it to the next level, and Wrath's plan, at least in part, seems to make good sense. Also, there is a really cool battle between Bruce and Caldewell which takes place in an unorthodox and intense setting.

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Sadly, there were also a lot of negatives in the mix and most of them occur towards the end of the story. (Spoilers) There are a few things that are not fully explained but could be dismissed fairly easily. For instance, how does Alfred prowl Caldwell Industries, find restricted areas and enter them without security catching him? Why does Caldwell waste time shooting officers if he has a solid plan to wipe them all out with booby trapped weapons? Still, these questions, though frustrating, could be answered without too much difficulty. The real frustrations came in the last few moments of the main story. First, the fight between Bruce and Caldwell on the balcony area, though awesome, is also kind of ridiculous especially when it clear that Caldwell and his minions are willing to kill Bruce. Unless Caldwell is completely willing to shed his identity just for this one day's actions, then he can not risk murdering such a high profile person especially when the public can look down from the nearby skyscrapers and see the murder in progress. Second, the solicited fight between Alfred and Wrath which I hoped would emphasize Alfred's fighting ability amounted to nothing more than Alfred getting sucker punched. This is out and out false advertisement. Third, Bats totally reveals his identity in multiple ways. First, he defeats Caldwell in hand to hand. Now it makes sense that Bruce Wayne the playboy would take some self-defense classes, so I don't mind him holding his ground, but completely obliterating Caldwell and then claiming luck is just stupid. Finally, the nail in the coffin which keeps me from describing this issue as significantly improved came when Bruce climbed into the Batwing in plain daylight in the midst of skyscrapers. We saw nearly this exact same stunt from Hurwitz (former writer of Vengeance of the Moon Knight and Penguin: Pride and Prejudice and current writer of The Dark Knight) in The Dark Knight a couple months ago, and it was just as stupid then. Everybody is going to see that and video tape it.

Bat Droppings  

1. I love this cover by Jason Fabok. (former penciler for Aspen MLT's Michael Turner's Soulfire, Superman/Batman, and The Dark Knight cover artist for Batwing and current penciler of Detective Comics) Giant sized Wrath sitting on the burning buildings of Gotham as if the city is his throne while Batman lays apparently lifeless in the smoking ruins? Very cool.  

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2. I do not like Blond's (current colorist of Detective Comics, Batgirl, Red Hood and the Outlaws and Superman) coloring on this issue. I think I threw poor Emilio Lopez (current cover artist for Detective Comics and Justice League Beyond) under the bus last time because he also colored last issue, but this time, Lopez didn't handle colors, and I still don't like the look. I've liked Blond's work in the past, but this whole issue looks like it has a gray-blue tint over the "lens." I understand Gotham is dank, but I prefer a lot more color. Let Batman and the city be dark. Give everything else some life.  

3. Bats jumps to the conclusion that Caldwell is Wrath pretty quickly. So quickly that it almost makes me wonder if this is a feint. I don't really see much evidence that could have pushed Bats to this conclusion.  

4. In the panel where Batman first hits Wrath, Wrath is holding one gun. In the rest of the fight, he is holding another gun. (the straight magazine becomes a banana magazine and a grenade launcher appears attached to the barrel in the second gun) Unless Wrath had a second rifle, it looks like Fabok messed up.

5. I guess it goes without saying that Wrath really had no reason to let Batman live, but I'll say it anyway. Caldwell had no reason to let Batman live.

(Spoilers until Conclusion) 

6. Bruce was taking a pretty big chance by throwing Caldwell off the building. Could he really know Caldwell would catch himself? Bruce had no gear to catch him if Caldwell failed to stop his fall. 

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7. I almost forgot to discuss the backup story, Marital Abyss. It was good giving us some new twists to the relationship between Kurt and Francine Langstrom. I probably would have enjoyed it more had Frank Tieri (former writer of Gotham Underground and Weapon X and current writer of Cable and X-Force) not already given away the story in an interview a couple months back.

Conclusion 7/10  

There is a lot of good stuff here, but unfortunately, there is a lot bad as well. If you've read previous issues in the arc, then you know what to expect. It's not bad, but I'd really like to see Layman back on his A game. 

More Recent Reviews:

Detective Comics #23: Bat and Mouse

Batwing #23: Smash

Legends of the Dark Knight #52: Gotham Eye View

Legends of the Dark Knight #53 - #55: Riddler in the Dark

Li'l Gotham #12: Father's Day Fun

Li'l Gotham #1

3: Minakuzi


BatWatch Review: Detective Comics Annual #2

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Face in the Crowd

I've been very happy with John Layman's work on Detective Comics as a whole, but I have to admit I was a bit disappointed in his latest issue. It was not bad, but wherein I expected a lot of intensity from the new arc featuring The Wrath, I instead got a rather bloated and overly simple story of Wrath sending his acolyte to do some dirty work for him. Layman usually squeezes the most out of every panel, but I definitely felt he could have skipped some scenes and put a lot more substance in Tec' #22.

The annual will hopefully be a different ballgame. The assassination of cops is the name nature of the crime in this particular case file, and that certainly sounds like the work of The Wrath, but there might be a lot more to this case than meets the eye.

Does Batman prove himself to be the World's Greatest Detective in 'Tec Annual #2 or is Batman too distracted with the needless fill to solve the case? 

In this issue, Batman is on the search for a villain who can be anyone.  

Law and Order: Super Crime Unit

John Layman has been the only guy really focusing on the detective aspect of Batman, and this issue plays to that aspect of the Bat even more than usual. This issue has a genuine mystery in place even if the suspects are few and the evidence inconclusive. Still, it's nice to see Batman put the pieces together, and I was kept guessing as the story unraveled.

On the other hand, something feels off to me about the main story. Part of it might be that the villain, Jane Doe, is new to me. I have heard of her, but I don't think I had ever actually read a story with her in it, and I can't say I really get her. Perhaps she is just a generic mustache twirling villain, but if she has any motivations deeper than that, I can't decipher them the main story. Rather than spending the issue enjoying her actions while on panel, I spent most of the time trying to figure out who and what she was. Perhaps that is what Layman intended, but I found I was puzzling about things like whether she was a shapeshifter or just a makeup artist. Does she actually have the skills of those she has killed or does she only think she has those skills? Why doesn't she have a face and is she wearing somebody else's face?  

I'm not sure that this confusion is a fault of the book. I might have liked the main story more if I was not plagued by questions, and I don't want each comic to take the time to explain the basic gimmick of the villain of the month, so I'll assume this would not have been a major point of concern for those who already knew Jane Doe.

Even so, something felt off to me about the dialogue and flow of the main story. Batman felt a bit preachy at times. The Wrath shows up for a one page cameo once more. Truth be told, I can't  pinpoint exactly what bugged me on this one, and perhaps that is because I am writing at the point of exhaustion and my brain simply is not functioning at 100% capacity right now, but something in the mix rubbed me the wrong way.  

Backup

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This is one of those issues where the backups really brought the story to the next level. The first, Contained Multitudes, deals with Harvey Dent interviewing a prisoner about her role in recent events. The art in this issue is by Szymon Kurdranski, (former artist for Detective Comics, Pain and Prejudice, Streets of Gotham and Image's Spawn and current artist of Detective Comics and Talon) and though I usually hate his work, I think it actually worked really well here. This short six page story is a skilled piece of psychological horror when you really think about it, and Kudranski's otherworldly look fits the tone quite well. It's one of those stories that you will want to read more than once so that you can try to understand what just happened, and in this case, I mean that in a good way.

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(Spoilers) I do have one problem with this story though. My take on the end, which is pretty ambiguous, is that Harvey Dent and the doctor are not even there. Jane Doe is imagining all these characters and speaking on their behalf as if they are her personal, mental dolls. That's cool and all, but the beginning of the story had Harvey outside the gates of Arkham, so what gives? Was that only in Doe's imagination?

The second backup, This Is Your Life, focuses more on the character most effected by the main story. It paints a very odd picture of a specific kind of personal Hell that the character suffers. It's almost funny, but if you put yourself in that position, it would actually be quite mortifying and depressing.

Bat Droppings

1. In case anybody is planning a life of crime, I suggest not withdrawing 100% of funds from an impersonated back account because that will immediately cause the higher ups to come running. Nobody wants to have that much money leave their bank.  

2. I didn't understand why everybody assumed Jane Doe woman when she looked quite manly even in a dress.  

(Spoilers)  

3. I guess its a good thing Batman's gut served him well or he would have split open the face of the poor nice doctor lady for nothing. Also, are we sure this is Jane Doe and not the Red Skull?

Conclusion 8/10

Not a bad little group of stories altogether. I did feel the main arc was missing a little something, but it was okay, and the backup stories actually added quite a bit to my enjoyment by giving a little clarity to what makes Jane Doe tick and showing the personal fallout of a crime spree for once. If you've been a fan of Layman's work on Batman, you should pick this up.

More Batman Reviews:

Batman, Incorporated #13 

Batman Annual #2 

Detective Comics Annual #2

 

BatWatch Review: Detective Comics #22

Targeting the Shield

Disclaimer: I will not be able to do any images or necessarily even get the text uploaded correctly because I've got a crap version of Windows 8 and MS decided to make it incredibly difficult to put a decent operating system on Windows 8 machines, so this review will suck from that perspective. Hopefully, my words will still be of interest.

I don't really have anything new to say about Detective Comics. It's the same old story, but in the possible way. I love Detective Comics. In my view, Layman (current writer of Image's Chew, IDW's Mars Attacks and Detective Comics) is writing the best Batman with short, simple adventure stories which do indeed showcase his detective skills. Jason Fabok  (former penciler for Aspen MLT's Michael Turner's Soulfire, Superman/Batman, and The Dark Knight cover artist for Batwing and current penciler of Detective Comics and cover artist for Justice League of America) has been an excellent partner in helping Layman make his visions reality.  

Some people disliked the last issue complaining that the villain was shallow and the story was unimportant, but I felt the villain opened the door for further exploration of her character and I'm not somebody who feels a story has to be large scale on either an emotional or physical level to be entertaining, so I enjoyed it. Now Layman is diving into a longer arc with the returning villain Wrath, the anti-Batman, who has made a few appearances over the years but has never really become even a B-string Bat villain. It looks like Layman is determined to redress Wrath's grievances and give him another shot at the big time in his DCNU reboot first appearance. Let's hope this villain lives up to his potential.

Does the Wrath serve as a noteworthy villain for The World's Greatest Detective or does this story just leave readers filled with Scorn? 

In this issue, Bruce meets an industrial rival and then Batman tackles Scorn, The Wrath's protege.

Monochrome

Honestly, I'm so ticked off at my computer right now that I'm having a hard time thinking about anything else, but I'm going to try to see through the red.

This issue had a lot of strong moments, but it also had some pretty major oversights.

The first thing that struck me was actually an artistic note which is unusual since that is not my strong suit. However, I've always loved Jason Fabok's pencils, yet they are actually more difficult to appreciate here not because they are any less skilled but because they are not accentuated very well by the colors. The artist who worked with Layman and Fabok through the Emperor Penguin plotline, Jeromy Cox, has flown the coop, and Emilio Lopez has taken his place. Emilio is not terrible, but his look just seems to be rather grey. Both during Gotham's dusky night and Gotham's cloudy day, we see a lot of gray in the picture, and monochromatic look kind of bores me. It's not truly one color, but it's mostly subdued tones which creates in me a rather subdued feeling. Occasionally, something bright will pop into frame, and it's nice to see the contrast between the mundane and the more intense, but if he were trying to really bring these brighter moments to the forefront, he really needed to bring even brighter colors because these brighter apsects, though not dull, do not make up for the plain look of so many other panels. Perhaps if the contrast were really extreme, this could work, but as is...

Again, Lopez's work is not bad, but it's not particularly good in my view.

The Typical and Innane

The first half of the issue was definitely the stronger half, but even here it felt a bit slow. We dealt with Batman being accuse of being a killer which is casually brushed off by Gordon, and this is a fine part of the story to include, but do we really need four pages for that and a retread of what happened which did not really reveal anything pertinent? I don't think so. Similarly, the conversation between Batman and Alfred over E.D. Caldwell felt a bit unnecessary. Does a whole page need to be spent on Alfred playing Devil's Advocate if he has no point? That seems unlike Pennyworth to me. Alfred always has a point.

(Spoilers for the Rest of This Section)

Still, these are minor issues which barely registered. What bugged me more was the stuff that hapened later in the issue. Scorn ineptly tries to kill some police officers, and Batman arrives on the scene twenty seconds late. This sends Scorn scurrying away, and what does Batman do? He wastes thrity seconds talking to the victims. He doesn't do anything to help them, and he saw Scorn running away, yet he makes sure to chitchat the officer. It's ridiculous. If Scorn had any sort of escape plan, then he would have been gone before Bruce could have done anything about it.

The three and a half page final scene was also completely unnecessary. Wrath killed Scorn because he failed him. First of all, this should pretty much be banned from action stories of any kind since it is a laughable cliche at this point. Dragging it out for three pages was unnecessary. Also, there was a big reveal page that took up the whole page where we got to see Wrath's armor for the first time, and it was kind of cool, but the thing is we already had a full page spread of The Wrath's armor on the cover, so big whoop.

On the Positive Front

 

I'm being pretty harsh for an issue I still enjoyed. It was nice to see Wayne and Caldwell meet face to face before putting on the masks. This certianly is not a new concept, but it is a trope that has fallen out of favor recently in comics. It's nice to see it make a reappearance. Fabok's art was great as always. Wrath and Scorn are cool villains, and I like the idea of the anti-Batman having an anti-Robin. I'm curious how this concept will develop in the future. The entire issue has a scattering of good, if not great, moments.

My Better Half

 

The backup story was actually better than the main story in this issue, and it would have been even better if the details had not been ruined in an interview with Tieri earlier this week. As I suspected, the spoilers Teiri shared covered much of the events on this issue and parts of the events from the next issue. So much for surprise.

Still, this issue continued to expand and evolve Kirk and Francine Langstrom as characters in more ways than one, and the art by Andy Clarke looked really sharp especially in the scene where Langstrom saw Man-Bat in the mirror.

Conclusion 7/10

 

I wavered between a seven and an eight for this one. The longer I've thought about this issue, the less impressed I was. It has good things going for it, but there were simply a larger than average amounts of missteps in this issue. If you have been loving every issue of Layman's 'Tec, than this is a safe purchase. Also, if you are a big fan of Man-Bat, I think you will want to check this out, but if you only want to buy the Batman comics above par, then you might want to wait until a few more issues come out before jumping on board.

BatWatch Review: Detective Comics #21

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Shadows and Ghosts

Well, I have pink eye and a massive sinus infection, so if this review sucks, I blame those two factors.

I'm hoping that even if I suck, the comic will still be high quality. I've been very happy with John Layman's (current writer of Detective Comics and Image's Chew) run on Detective Comics. There have been a few tiny missteps, but at the end of the day, Layman delivers my favorite current presentation of the Bat. Emperor Penguin was a cool new villain featured in the last arc, and now Layman is introducing a villain I've dubbed Purple-Glowy-Armed-Spider-Girl until an official name has been given for her. In the preview, she seemed like an intriguing villain, and we also saw Harper Row making more mischief in the preview. As the first time we see Harper outside of the Batman series, it will be interesting to see how a different writer interprets her. Altogether, there is a lot promising that this will be a great issue.

Does Detective Comics #21 live up to my high expectations or is this a Purple-Glowy-Armed-Spider-Failure?

In this issue, the past is revealed more fully and Batman and Harper take on an assassin.

Purple-Glowy-Armed-Spider-Girl Revealed!

Purple-Glowy-Armed-Spider-Girl is revealed to have a more compact codename, Penumbra. It turns out she is the returning assassin some might remember from Detective Comics' Zero Issue. Personally, that was by far my least favorite of the Batman Zero Issues and I barely recall any details of it, but thankfully, this issue rehashed the story in the first page (what little of a “story” was present) and showed some more of what transpired to set readers up for this issue. For a character who was completely unmemorable in the Zero Issue, Layman does a good job of making her feel interesting here.

Though not completely uninteresting as a character, most of her attraction comes because of her powerset which is pretty cool. Penumbra is the name of a shadow cast by a semi-transparent object. You know, when you can see a shadow but its not really fully formed? Penumbra can form various weapons out of shadows including extra arms, blades and even a crossbow, and it's a pretty cool effect. Not surprisingly, this ability also has its drawbacks. Though Penumbra is a credible physical threat and an interesting figure ripe for exploration in future story lines, she's not really fully formed as a character, so she's only slightly compelling.

Harper Row, on the other hand, is the emotional center of this story, and like her previous appearances, this one continued to build the case that she does offer something worthwhile to the Bat Family. She has the audacity to look at Batman as almost an equal, yet she does seem to realize that Batman could kick her tail and ruin her life, so it's a weird balance of healthy cockiness and respect. She has continued to get into trouble, yet Batman has forced her to change her approach. If nothing else, I would find Harper Row to be an interesting character simply because she represents a relatively normal person trying to gain the attention and approval of the Bat, and there has never been a character who has explored this concept for more than a few issues.

It also appears that Bruce and Alfred are considering her for the role of Robin. Whether she will actually end up in that role is still a mystery though for my money, I'd much rather see her take it than Carrie. Still, I think she would be most interesting as a character who is not directly under Bruce's command.

Bat Droppings

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1. The backup feature is also interesting though not amazing. It focuses on Man-Bat who has to confront the possibility that he might have murdered while in his Man-Bat form. It's certainly the sort of story I've seen previously, but it is done fairly well here. There is nothing wrong with it, but it is about what you would expect from the get go. Andy Clarke (former cover artist for Batgirl, artist for Batman Confidential and 2000 AD and current artist of Detective Comics) handles the art, and he does a good job. At least this issue does answer the question of why Man-Bat is sometimes Kirk Langstrom and sometimes Man-Bat. Apparently, the serum naturally gets exercised from a human's system over time, but Langstrom has become addicted to it. Again, this seems very familiar. I believe Batman: The Animated Series hit on several of these concepts.

2. Scott Eaton (former penciler of Crossgen's Sigil and current penciler of Detective Comics) does a good job filling Jason Fabok's (former penciler for Aspen MLT's Michael Turner's Soulfire, Superman/Batman and The Dark Knight and cover artist for Batwing and current cover artist of Detective Comics) shoes, but his work is not nearly as consistent as Fabok's. People's faces sometimes look significantly different from panel to panel. For instance on page seven, Harper Row looks like her regular self in one panel and then she looks about fifty pounds heavier in the next. Also, there are some panels with a lot less details than others, but still, it's a sharp looking issue throughout.

3. I don't see why Penumbra's shadows are purple. That doesn't really track.

4. Penumbra's outfits, both super and non, are ridiculously immodest. Even when fully covered, her clothes are so tight you can see her belly button.

5. Penumbra's looks are somewhat reminiscent of the Indian goddess Ganga though Ganga only has four arms.

(Spoilers Until Conclusion)

6. Bruce really tipped Penumbra off to his identity if she were paying any attention.

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7. Ra's is almost certainly the one controlling Penumbra, and this is a bit odd since Ra's was imprisoned by Talia when last we saw him. I guess this probably takes place after Batman, Incorporated, and Ra's will most likely regain his kingdom.

Conclusion 9/10

I suppose if I were going to really be picky, I could probably drop this down a little for being too predictable in the backup and leaving too many unanswered questions on the front end, but I'm just not feeling that cynical at the moment. I really enjoyed this issue, and I fully recommend it.

More Recent Reviews:

Detective Comics #21

Batwing #21

Legends of the Dark Knight #49 - #50

Batman Beyond #22 - #23

Li'l Gotham #11

Legends of the Dark Knight #51

 

BatWatch Review: Detective Comics #20

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King for a Day

It's time for more na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na na, Batman! Introductions like that are why I should not write intros right after waking up.

John Layman (current writer of Image's Chew, IDW's Mars Attacks and Detective Comics) has been a blast on Detective Comics, and though we actually have several extremely talented writers working on Bat books these days, I think Layman is my favorite. I'm delighted that he delivers a more or less finished story in every book while building larger arcs between books. It's must be a delicate balance to write, but the satisfaction of having a completed case in each issue makes it well worth the extra work. Now, we are at the conclusion of the Emperor Penguin story arc, and somehow, our beloved thug who made it to the big time goes from being a trim classy looking guy with a bad haircut to a blue, muscle bound brute with a bad haircut. It looks like some twists are in store for both us and Batman in this issue, and I'm not completely convinced that I am on board with those twists, but I am intrigued.

Does Emperor Penguin feel the cold hard hand of justice do does this story leave readers out in the cold?

In this issue, Penguin is set free and Batman takes on a mutated Emperor Penguin, and in the backup, we find out more about Ogilvy's past.

A Justification for Big Blue

My biggest concern going into this issue was how Ogilvy transformed from a run of the mill human to a big blue metahuman bruiser. I originally thought that his transformation was going to be a by prodcut of Penguin's plan for revenge. You know, it could have run the typical, “Let's kill him by dunking him in a vat of experimental characters. Oh no! He's transforming!” That scenario has been done countless times, so I was hoping it would not be the case here. Alternatively, it seemed like a possibility that Ogilvy might have always been a metahuman, and he might have kept it a secret in order to appear as a non-threat, but if that were the case, the Ogilvy would have had a secret advantage the whole time he made his play for Gotham, so it would have made his success slightly less impressive.

Thankfully, the real scenario turned out to fit neither of these templates. Rather than his mutation being something that happened to Ogilvy, Ogilvy was the driving force behind these mutations. Many of the pieces that had been left dangling throughout the story were all tied up in Ogilvy's transformation for he was secretly trying to test out various chemical enhancers over these past six issues. His final form was caused from a mix of Man-Bat formula, venom and some plant mutation by Poison Ivy. I know for certain that Poison Ivy and the Man-Bat formula were shown in the comics, and I believe Ogilvy also hit STAR Labs in a past issue which is where he stole the venom, so it was rather nice that the clues were laid out before us the entire time. By transforming himself, Ogilvy just solidifies himself as a self-determined and fearsome villain willing to do whatever it take to hold on to power.

Art Astounding

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As always, the art by Jason Fabok (former penciler for Aspen MLT's Michael Turner's Soulfire, Superman/Batman, and The Dark Knight cover artist for Batwing and current penciler of Detective Comics) and Jeromy Cox (former colorist of Catwoman and Vertigo's DMZ and current colorist of Detective Comics and Justice League Dark) holds up as some of the best in the business. It's a shame that so much of this issue took place in the rain because it obscures the gorgeous visuals provided by these two. There was not a single panel in the issue which pulled me out of the story for a second because of questionable or confusing artwork, and as I've mentioned previously, the vibrancy of Cox's colors never cease to impress. Batman uses some acid and electrical weapons in this issue, and the colors used to convey these are beautiful. It's also nice how bright objects have an aura about them. With the second to last panel of the main story, a glowing object is just off panel, yet you can see the aura of the glow seep into the image from the source just off panel. It's a nice attention to detail.

Empire of the Son

The backup feature shows us a bit about Ogilvy's past. Like Bruce, Ogilvy's parents were murdered right in front of him as they were exiting a movie theater, but unlike Bruce's family, the Ogilvys were not watching The Mark of Zorro. I found it interesting that Ogilvy was instead watching Goodfellas and Death Wish. Goodfellas is a classic mob movie about working your way up the ranks while Death Wish is about a guy who became a lethal vigilante after his wife was murdered. If you watch a movie about a traditional hero right before your parents are murdered, you become a traditional hero. If you watch movies about the mob and vengeance right before your parents are killed, you become a vengeful mobster. That's good to know.

I think Death Wish coupled with the fact that young Ogilvy would not describe the murderer to the police was meant to imply that Ogilvy planned to take care of the murderer himself.

Bat Droppings

1. As I predicted, Emperor Penguin's pride proved his undoing.

2. Is this the first time we have seen the Tumbler in continuity actually being called the Tumbler?

3. The dialogue felt a tad clunky at times. It was not bad, but a few moments, such as Penguin's conversation with Bruce, felt a bit off.

(Spoilers until Conclusion)

4. Villains often do the whole, “Hello, Governor. Give me all your power. Thanks. Bye.” Does this ever work? I do not think a politician would ever give up his power.

5. Any guesses who the chick is at the end? I've got no clue except that her armor looks vaguely Amazonian. Also, could we create new female characters who actually wear decent clothes? Who wears a pink sports bra into battle?

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6. I enjoyed Ogilvy's backstory though the similarities to Bruce's parents murder were a bit much. Still, I like the justification for Ogilvy's actions. I also liked how he changed his name to Emperor Blackgate. For one thing, it sound better. For another, I think for Ogilvy, the only thing that matters is being at the top of the food chain no matter where he happens to be.

Conclusion 9/10

It's a fun issue. If you've enjoyed Layman's run thus far, you are sure to enjoy this issue. All Bat fans should pick it up.

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Recent Reviews:

Detective Comics #20

Worlds' Finest #12

Batwing #20

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Li'l Gotham #9

Review: Detective Comics #19

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Bad News/Good News

The bad news is that once I opened up Detective Comics #900, I knew there was no way I could review it in a timely manner. I only had about four hours to read and write a review Wednesday, and though that is plenty of time for one issue and even enough for three issues, (in my overly detailed, analytical, and image filled style) that is not enough time to review five different issues, and it was immediately apparent that Detective Comics #900 was more like five separate issues than one big issue since the stories had little to do with each other, so to be fair, I had to get down in the nitty gritty of each story, and consequently, I did not get to either Worlds' Finest or Batwing quite yet. Assuming nothing crops up Thursday evening, I should have them done by then.

The good news is that if you were looking for an in depth analysis of Tec' 900th anniversary, you have come to the right place because I wrote several pages on the issue all filled to the brim with awesome pictures from the beautifully rendered issue, so I hope you will read on.

Detective Comics #19

Preparing to read Detective Comics #19, (Detective Comics #900 for those fans counting at home) I find myself with mixed emotions. On the positive side, this is an extra long issue commemorating Detective Comics 900th uninterrupted issue which I believe is a record second only to Action Comics. Also, John Layman (former writer of Image's Chew and current writer of Detective Comics) has been doing an excellent job writing the series, and Jason Fabok's (former penciler for Aspen MLT's Michael Turner's Soulfire, Superman/Batman, and The Dark Knight cover artist for Batwing and current penciler of Detective Comics) pencils are consistently excellent. That being said, I also have some reasons to be nervous. This month's WTF certified covers are supposed to be particularly thrilling with their big reveals, yet the second half of this cover reveals nothing more than man-bats and the less than gripping question, “What is the 900?” In addition, some tidbits I've seen from the issue make it clear that the Bat Clan is bickering like teenagers, and it's hard to get to excited over a group of creatures who were originally created just to be a pun on the protagonist's name. I'm torn and unsure of what to expect.

Does Detective Comics #900 prove to be a worthy tribute to seventy-five years of detective stories, or is this a case in which the trail has gone cold?

These five stories are mostly separate, so I'm going to review them separately.

The 900

In The 900, Batman fights off an infection that threatens to turn Gotham into a city of man-bats.

One Up for Fabok and One Down for Layman

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After reading this story, I have to say that my positive view of Layman's writing was damaged a little with this for several reasons, but let's get the positives out of the way first. Layman's Batman is still my favorite current version of the character. He is brutal but not vindictive, intelligent without acting flawless, and reserved without being hostile. Another plus is that Layman continues to weave the Emperor Penguin story into this without letting it interfere with the main story.

As nice as these features are, things lurk in these pages which are considerably less flattering to Layman's legacy as a Bat writer.

First up, the intro feels wrong. Early in the story, we see a woman approaching a pharmacy carrying a young child. When she gets inside, she tells the shop owner she needs medicine for her baby, and then she suddenly collapses. When she turns back around, both she and her child have turned into man-bats. (or woman- and child-bats to be politically correct) This is a brilliant scene, but it is undermined by the prologue preceding it which already made it clear that there are a bunch of man-bats running around, and for that reason, it is no big shock to see them pop up unexpectedly.

Second, Batman bungee jumped out of the Batplane, but his deceleration line never went taught. In fact, he used his fast descension to crush a man-bat, so was he just jumping with the hope that a man-bat would break his fall or what?

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Third, Batman's protégées act like a bunch of Bat Babies refusing to answer Bruce's call for help because they are mad over the events of Death of the Family. Now, this is partially Snyder's (former writer for Detective Comics and current writer of Batman, Talon, American Vampire, and Swamp Thing) fault, but seriously, why should they be mad? Joker created all the havoc, and it would not have mattered one iota if Batman had told them earlier about the possibility that Joker could have broken into the Bat cave. Batgirl's refusal to answer Bruce's call is just one more example of her being unlikable in the DCNU, but Nightwing's refusal to even try to help Gotham and his decision to leave Batgirl in mortal danger borders on the reprehensible. Way to make the Bat Clan despicable, Layman.

Fourth, another Bat character shows up in this issue but is criminally underutilized and may as well be a lamppost for the amount of impact she has on the issue.

(Spoilers) Fifth, why did Langstrom need the serum from Batman when he was already shown to have it at the beginning of the issue?

(Spoilers) Sixth, can one virus really overwrite another one? Perphas this is a segment of biology with which I am unfamiliar; I'm certainly no expert, but it seems to me that if I had the flu and contracted rabies, I would not lose the flu. I would just have the flu and rabies.

(Spoilers) Seventh, Emperor Penguin is shown to be holding Poison Ivy in a very dominative way at the end of the issue, and I cannot see Poison Ivy putting up with that in any way for any reason. To be fair to Layman, that could have been a Jason Fabok call rather than something Layman scripted.

(Spoilers) This is actually more a loose end than a fault because I presume Layman will explain it, but why did Emperor Penguin want to infect people with man-bat formula, and why did Emperor Penguin give Zsasz a Court of Owls dagger?

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Despite all these many significant flaws, I enjoyed the issue which is why I say Jason Fabok goes up in my already high respect for him. The story was sub par not only for Layman but for the Batman brand in general, but Fabok's art really does a lot to sell the story. Despite the wonky story resolution, Fabok really makes you feel the threat and panic of the man-bats in the midst of things. I would stop short of saying Fabok gives the book a sci-fi horror feel, but the art work definitely makes things feel tense anytime a man-bat is on panel. Bruce's actions are also illustrated beautifully, and the scene where Bruce takes out a certain Batman rogue is so direct and efficient that it really gives you that smug, satisfied feeling just to witness it. Fabok also captures facial expressions well.

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Though nobody ever gives the colorists any love, I've got to give Jeromy Cox (former colorist of Catwoman and Vertigo's DMZ and current colorist of Detective Comics and Justice League Dark) some props on this issue. In addition to just doing a good job in general, I've noticed that he has a tendency to create some overarching color scheme for entire issues. I'm not very knowledgeable when it comes to artwork, so maybe I'm off base here, but it seems to me that every issue he has done for this series has a dominant color that works its way through the entire issue, and it is usually something that stands in sharp contrast with the regular shades of Gotham. This issue's theme appeared to be a bright blue which showed up everywhere from the glowing eyes of the man-bats, to the visual effect of Batman's sonic scrambler, to the backgrounds of many panels, and most obviously to the serum collected by Batman. I do not know if Cox does this intentionally or if this is just his style bubbling forth naturally, but I like it.

Rewriting History for the Worse (Spoilers until Conclusion for the 900)

I groaned inwardly when I realized that this issue had yet another continuity change. Man-Bat is no longer Man-Bat, or at least he was not until this issue. I have no idea why writers feel the need to fix what is not broken, and why, if they feel they must change it, they do not replace it with something better rather than worse.

I did some very quick research into Man-Bat's past continuity and found that he injected himself with an experimental formula which turned him into the creature known as Man-Bat. Is this a unique concept? Not in the slightest. It fits right into the classical sci-fi moral of, “Beware of powers man was not meant to harness,” and into the classic comic book motif of, “an experiment that went wrong,” yet I do not find this new story to be more compelling than the old mostly because I find Langstrom's attitude to be incredibly annoying. He does nothing until the very end of this issue but whine about how it is all his fault these horrible things are happening because someone stole his experimental man-bat formula, but it's not his fault. You are not responsible with what other people do with your property especially if they stole it from you. If someone steals your car and runs over a dozen school kids, you are in no way responsible for those children's deaths, yet Langstrom continues to hold himself responsible for the actions of, presumably, the League of Assassins, and I just find that namby pamby kind of thinking to be extremely distasteful. He does, at the end, do something noble and self-sacrificial, and if he had done that without all the whiny buildup or saying, “Atone,” as he injected himself, I would actually say this was a superior, if still unnecessary, origin reboot for Man-Bat, but no, he has to act like he is making up for a crime despite having done nothing wrong, so this story annoys me.

Conclusion for The 900

Severe deficiencies in plot are actually somewhat redeemed by great artwork. Despite the many problems, it's still worth reading. 7/10

Birth of a Family

In this story, Dr. Francine Langstrom reflects on the life of her husband.

Ambiguity, Thy Name Is Man-Bat

The main word that comes to my mind after reading this story is ambiguity. Whereas the previous story gave me one view of Kirk Langstrom, this one turns it on its head and makes me wonder, “Was that all a lie?” Before, Langstrom appeared a victim of circumstances beyond his control, (albeit a willing victim at the end) but in this story, Kirk could be just that, a noble man who was caught in a bad situation, or he could be an active menace rolling the dice with other people's lives.

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(Spoilers) The sticking point is whether or not he was covering up the side effects of his research. Clearly, he was not advertising it, but as long as the parents of these kids knew, “Hey, we turned your kids into man-bats. We're working on it. Sorry,” then I guess you can see this as an honest, if huge, whoopsie. If he found out the serum's negative effects, cured it, and then continued to try to get funding for further research, then that's cool, but if he was keeping those kids locked up while advertising to others that the research only had minor side affects, then he...has severe problems, and that makes Francine Langstrom a psychotic accomplice in Kirk's delusions of grandeur.

That being said, I liked the ambiguity the story brings in terms of Langstrom's morality. The open ending was a bit less appreciated, but still, I enjoyed it, and it is a pretty good set up for future stories.

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The artwork by Andy Clarke (former cover artist for Batgirl, artist for Batman Confidential and 2000 AD and current artist of Detective Comics) was topnotch though I did notice that Francine Langstrom in this story looked nothing like Francine Langstrom in the previous story beyond her red hair. Also, the inclusion of The Last Supper was a bit odd because it appeared to be an actual picture of the painting which looks very odd inserted into the comic art. Also, who hangs The Lord's Supper at the front of their chapel? No church I've ever visited.

Conclusion for Birth of a Family 8/10

My biggest complaint about the issue is that it was so short. It gave a little background, but it barely moved the story forward, and I found that a bit annoying. Still, it was a fun way to see our expectation from the previous issue turned on its head.

War Council

In this story, Bane prepares his army for a threat they never knew they would face, The Court of Owls.

James Tynion IV Is the Man!

Now that Layman has fallen in my eyes with his disappointing The 900, maybe I should claim James Tynion IV (current writer of Detective Comics, Talon and Batman) as my favorite Batman writer. After all, he is still writing backup features on Batman books on a regular basis, and I have not seen him write a bad one yet.

James Tynion IV announced last weekend at Wonder Con that Bane would be coming back in a big way in Talon, and if this story is any indication, he wasn't kidding. Bane has an army of malicious looking freaks that were actually so cool looking that I literally said, “Whoa,” when first glimpsing Bane's lineup. I don't know what Bane's relation to Santa Prisca is when last we glimpsed it pre-Flashpoint, but now it appears as if Bane has claimed the prison as his own and is using it as a staging ground for his own personal war on Gotham.

The story is light on plot but big on action and intrigue, yet it promises things to come more than it delivers a satisfying story in and of itself, so I've got to think that it will be less satisfying for people not following Talon, yet getting interest in Talon is no doubt exactly the point of placing this story in 'Tec. The only possible flaw I saw with the story was that it referenced Bane's appearance in the nauseatingly horrible “Knight Terrors” plotline, and though I usually give props to writers for including past character appearances in ongoing events, any reminder of that travesty is...painful.

The art by Mikel Janin (former artist for Deadman and the Flying Graysons and current artist for Detective Comics and Justice League Dark and cover artist for Batgirl) is quite nice.

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(Spoiler) There is a shadowy figure who informs Bane of the Court of Owls existence, and this raises some questions for Talon. Since the main Court is opposed to Bane, it would make little sense for this to be an official of the Court, so the obvious identity of this character would be Sebastian Clark who was revealed in the last issue of Talon as having ambitions to reclaim the Court for his own nefarious purposes, but since this was supposedly revealed in the last issue of Talon, I cannot see why they would not confirm Sebastian's betrayal in this issue. It almost makes me think this is a red herring, but who else could it be? Perhaps Tynion IV is just trying to keep us guessing. Forced to make a guess, I would say the figure probably is Clark, and he allied himself with Bane to eliminate Talon when Talon had outlived his usefulness.

Conclusion for War Council 9/10

If you are not keeping up with Talon and you hate teases for other stories, then you will probably not appreciate this story, but for me, it was very exciting. I look forward to Bane being restored to his former glory.

Birdwatching

In this story, Mr. Combustible explains his role in Emperor Penguin's latest caper.

Filling in the Plot Holes

I said I had confidence that Layman would explain the mysteries presented in the first story, and my faith in him was not misplaced as this story explained the motivation for the outbreak of The 900.

The strong parts of this particular story was that it highlights the genius of Ogilvy. If future solicits are any indication, Penguin will soon wreak his vengeance on Ogilvy by doing something that makes him blue with an ugly haircut, so before Emperor Penguin gets relegated to the status of just another goofy looking supervillain, it's nice to see him use devious and cutthroat moves to take over Gotham. Ogilvy is much like Cobblepot except whereas Cobblepot seems to be, compared to many super villains, discrete and modest in his criminal enterprises, Ogilvy seems to have an unyielding need to double down on each of his ventures, and his long tenure among the criminal elite seems to have given him a knack for the business. Perhaps it will be that desire to always take the greatest risk for the greatest reward which will be his undoing.

On the less positive front, the overall narrative of this story seems to be done in a bit of a pro forma fashion simply to move the Emperor Penguin plot along. It's fairly interesting on its own, but other than the creative scheme and the smooth execution of the crimes, it's doesn't really offer anything noteworthy. It just turns the page for the next chapter.

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Also, the art by Henrik Jonsson (a comic artist newbie who previously worked on Detective Comics and currently works on Detective Comics and Joe Kubert Presents) does not thrill me. Compared to the other stellar art in this issue, it simply is not on the same level. The Penguin is overly ugly in my view, and the judge at the end looks painfully terrified to the point that people in the courtroom should really notice. Also, the gang working with Mr. Combustible at the beginning are not wearing gloves while in the midst of their heist.

(Spoilers) Finally, the idea that Emperor Penguin released the man-bat toxin to commit heists only makes sense if Ogilvy had some way to keep the virus from spreading over the entire world and ending the human race, so there is still a puzzle piece missing in this story, but again, I'll have faith in Layman to explain this down the road.

Conclusion 8/10

Layman answers one of my big questions from the earlier issue and tells a moderately entertaining short story that moves the plot forward. For a brief tale, it's pretty good.

Through a Blue Lens

In this story, a group of cops discuss the role of Batman in Gotham.

Layman's Redemption

Yeah, I know I've made almost all parts of this review about Layman, but I was very disappointed in his main story this week, and it delighted me that he finally delivered a truly great one here.

There are several things I love about this story. First, it uses at least one minor character who has appeared earlier in the series, and I love it when writers remember the small supporting cast and develop them. Second, it focuses on the aftermath of one of these huge disaster situations. Crazy crap is always happening in the DC universe, yet we almost never see any of the cleanup. This is an especially large oversight when insane things happen to ordinary individuals. Honestly, there could be a whole series dedicated to this type of narrative cleanup. Third, we get to see cops reflecting on the Bat, and though this is hardly the first time this angle of Gotham politics is explored, it is something that only occasionally crops up when it would most likely be a big factor in Batman's day to day life. Fourth, the story has a heart and leaves this whole “80-Page Spectacular!” on an uplifting note. Fifth, it has artwork by Jason Masters (newbie comic artist who currently works on Batman, Incorporated, Legends of the Dark Knight, and Detective Comics) who has a nice fluid style when he's not smoking crack. (inside joke)

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There are some negatives. I get tired of people who make bad points in stories being cast as someone easy to hate. They are usually ugly, belligerent, and out of shape, and all three of those apply to the bad guy in this issue. Granted, many people who have dumb ideas are belligerent, but wouldn't it be more interesting to see things mixed up a little where someone can be a nice guy with a bad idea or at least someone who is not so openly hostile? Also, the story makes reference to Batman first appearing five years ago, yet we know he has already been around for seven years at the beginning of the DCNU. Even if you work off the assumption that Batman worked in secret for the first two years, it still should be a year after the DCNU started according to all recent stories that have made reference to a time scale including the Bane story earlier in this issue, so a little editorial consistency would be nice.

Conclusion for Through a Blue Lens 9/10

Minor flaws still holding true, this story is almost exactly what a short Batman story should be.

Art Extras

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Out of the eighty or so pages that make up this issue, nine of them consist of different Batman pieces from great comic artists. With the whole internet at your disposal, you can no doubt get all of these on your computer without purchase, but it would be a shame to let this go by without giving props to the (mostly) great work. I will not point out the two piece I thought were meh, but here are the names of the headlined artists who contributed: Alex Maleev, (former artist for Daredevil and current artist of Batman, Detective Comics, and Daredevil: End of Days) Brett Booth, (former artist of Wildstorm comic Backlash and current penciler of Detective Comics and cover artist for Teen Titans, Earth 2, Superboy and G.I. Combat) Chris Burnham, (former artist of Batman, Incorporated and Batman and Robin and current artist for Batman, Incorporated and Detective Comics) Jason Fabok, Andy Clarke, Francesco Francavilla, (former artist for Dynamite's Zorro and current artist for Detective Comics and cover artist for Red She-Hulk) Cameron Stewart, (former artist for Catwoman and Batman and Robin and current artist for Detective Comics) and Dustin Nguyen. (former cover artist of Batman Beyond and Batgirl, artist on Detective Comics and Wildcats Version 3.0, and penciler of Streets of Gotham and current writer and artist of Li'l Gotham, Justice League Beyond and Detective Comics)

Overall Conclusion 8/10

It's a nice collection of work, but it is not the best series of Batman stories ever bound into a single comic book. If you have a big interest in getting this issue for sentimental reasons or you have been enjoying the series, then go ahead and buy it. You will not regret it.

Review: Detective Comics #18

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Return To Roost

It is time once more for Detective Comics. Unfortunately, I was not able to get this out Wednesday due to my crazy week, so since I am now playing catch up, I will probably cut this review a little short, but still, I'll try to do the review justice.

Detective Comics, with the combined talents of John Layman (former writer of Image's Chew and current writer of Detective Comics) and Jason Fabok, (former penciler for Aspen MLT's Michael Turner's Soulfire, Superman/Batman, and The Dark Knight cover artist for Batwing and current penciler of Detective Comics) has been delivering some of the best Batman stories on the market as far as I am concerned, but I'm a little nervous about this issue. Penguin is returning and Emperor Penguin is in power, yet Layman must include in this issue the fallout from Death of the Family and Damian's sad demise, so it is easy to imagine that this story might get a bit cluttered and lost its way, and I've heard some comments from people who have already read the issue say just that. Now, it is time for me to make my judgment. Does Detective Comics deliver another stellar issue, or is this a rambling tale with no real point?

In this issue, Penguin gets burned and does some burning, Batman has to deal with the threat of Penguin and Mr. Zsasz (I just realized Zsasz is a palindrome. Interesting) while mourning the death of Damian, and Emperor Penguin confronts his former employer.

Moderate Expectations

As I made clear in the intro, I was not expecting great things from this issue because I've heard several negative comments about it, but I think those comments are completely off base. The complaints I heard were that this issue tried to balance too many plot lines and failed in the process, and that sounded plausible considering that issue seventeen suffered from that very problem but Layman seems to have learned to deal with the problem of forced crossovers better in this issue by simply skirting the whole death of Damian.

Damian's death does get the short stick in this issue. We see one full page of mourning, and then the issue moves back to focus on the Penguins, and that might irritate some especially if you buy the issue for this mini-crossover called Requiem, but really, why should we see a lot on Damian mourning in this issue? We are about to have an entire month of mourning. Entire issues of Batman and Robin and Batman, Incorporated will focus on nothing else. Just like most fans were sick of the Joker by the end of Death of the Family, most fans would be sick of the Damian mourning by the end of this month if it was layered on that thick in every Bat book. Instead of falling into that trap, Layman continues to tell the story he was already developing, and the series was made stronger because of this.

Throughout the whole issue, I looked for any part of the story to get second hand treatment or fail to be fully developed, but in the entire main story, there were no such moments. Every time I thought I saw a potential oversight in the writing, it was neatly tied up a few panels later, so I've got to give Layman his props for writing a tight story.

Penguin Unleashed

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In the modern age, Penguin has almost always been a guy sitting at the top of the food chain in the Gotham underworld who merely gives orders and never gets his hands dirty, and for that reason, I found it extremely entertaining for him to grab some umbrella weapons and raise a little Cain. It almost managed to make Penguin seem like a formidable physical opponent, and that was kind of cool though I was a bit disappointed that Penguin was not able to go on a longer rampage.

Editorial Boxes

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The way the conflict wrapped up between Penguin and Emperor Penguin was pretty cool too, and I am once more eager to see what happens next.

Does anybody like those little editorial boxes that pop up at the bottom of the panel and say, “Check out issue umpteen of ASM to see when Spider-Man ate a bowl of broccoli soup with Beyonder,” because I've heard people claim they like the pop ups, but I find that hard to believe. There were at least three of them in this issue, and despite the fact that I was actually interested in the information in one of them, all three annoyed me. As far as I am concerned, these only serve to yank me out of the flow of the story. I do not understand why they do not just do a reference page at the end. It would virtually no space.

The interesting tidbit presented in one of the boxes was that a character from Talon appears in this issue, so again, I have to give some props to Layman for having his fingers on the pulse of the Bat universe.

A Cut Above

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The backup feature is where this issue suffers a bit. It focuses on Zsasz, but it adds nothing to his character or history worth metioning. It recaps part of his origin tale, and that was not bad, but then, it turns into nothing more than a typical Zsasz story with Joker (the backup story was set in the recent past) making an awkward appearance. This story is not bad per say, but it feels completely unnecessary. There is a hint of a possible intersection between this title and The Court of Owls, but beyond that, everything of relevance to the Emperor Penguin story was already established in the main tale.

Also, I was not a huge fan of the pencils by Henrik Jonsson. (a comic artist newbie who previously worked on Detective Comics and currently works on Detective Comics and Suicide Squad) Again, they were not bad, but they had that moderately exaggerated look which rarely works for me. Also, where is Zsasz's goatee which he wears in the main story. Tsk, tsk. Either Zsasz has a super beard growing power or artists are failing to collaborate.

Speaking of artists, Jason Fabok continues to do excellent work on this series.

Conclusion 9/10

I really struggled on whether or not to give this an eight or a nine, but I went ahead and decided to err on the side of generosity. The main story is well worth reading if you have been following Layman's Batman run, but the backup story was unmemorable, and I have a hard time giving it a nine just because I had to pay an extra dollar for the eight pages of mediocrity. Still, its a very enjoyable purchase for anybody who has been following the book thus far. On the other h----------and, it is not worth buying if you just want to see a lot of blubbering over Damian. There is one page at the graveside, Batman sheds a solitary tear, and then the story is Penguin-centric, so be warned.

Review: Detective Comics #17

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The Pursuit of Happiness

As you probably know if you have been following my blog, I've been sick the last couple of days, so sadly, I'm coming to the game late to review this month's 'Tec. Due to the fact that I'm backlogged and a bit fuzzy in the head, this review might not be as detailed as some others. I'll just write what comes to mind, and we'll see what shakes loose from my semi-poisoned mind.

John Layman has delivered some excellent stories for his four issues of Detective thus far. I was a little disappointed in the Death of the Family issues because they broke the narrative flow of the Emperor Penguin story, but it is pretty clear this was an editorial mandate, so I can hardly fault Layman for it. Even so, last issue introduced the Joker worshiping League of Smiles which was plenty entertaining in its own right and scores major points for breaking from the traditional Death of the Family mold. The last panel of the main story left us with a mysterious new character (with a wicked cool design to boot) Merrymaker. Does Merrymaker add a little joy to this Batman fan's life, or does his title boast a greater feat than this new villain can deliver?

In this issue, Bruce tries to stop the Merrymaker before he builds a bigger body count.

John Layman Strikes Again!

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I have to say, I'm a sucker for Layman's portrayal of the Dark Knight. He really shares my vision of the character which is manifested in all sorts of little ways. Bruce is direct and uncompromising in his conversation with Bullock in this issue, yet he doesn't go out of his way to be dick. Bruce's actions feel very carefully planned out as he strikes carefully and lures people into a certain position before fighting, yet he is not perfect in combat or his detective skills managing to take a few blows and overlook some clues at first glance. Batman is brutal, yet his inner monologue reveals some wry pleasure in his work. I love Bruce's thoughts as a criminal gets beaten by his fellow thugs. “Had I not intervened, I have no doubt that he would have been beaten to death in fifteen seconds. I allow them to beat him for ten.” Great stuff.

Also, the Death of the Family fatigue plays a role in my appreciation of this story. Everybody who has been following that Bat books is a bit sick of the Joker story which only seems to go anywhere in Snyder's title. Major props to Layman for finding a way to include the story and sidestep it at the same time. Honestly, its just nice to see Bruce win a battle and close a case for once.

Emperor Penguin was not completely forgotten in this issue. In fact, I much preferred how Ogilvy was handled in this issue compared to the last. The transition between League of Smiles and Emperor Penguin stories seemed really awkward to me last issue, but they blended nicely this time. Batman's discovery of Emperor Penguin's fake Joker murders were sewn seamlessly into the main story, and then his tale was ignored until after the League was put to rest. Very nice.

The Only Plot Twist Obvious Enough To Be Seen from Space

As much as I enjoyed the issue, I can't let the extremely obvious plot twist go by without a mention. If you do not have a good idea about the identity of the Merrymaker early on in this issue, you are dense.

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(Spoiler) The last panel of the main story in the last issue left us with the mysterious villain, the Merrymaker. The first page of the main story in this issue starts with a psychotic character named Bryon Merideth. Could these two characters be related? Merrymaker? Merideth? Any relation? Yeah, I'm gonna bet there is. It was a little painful to see Bats overlook the obvious as Meredith was clearly the hub off which all the other League members stemmed.

Of course, Layman does try to throw readers off the scent by saying that Meredith had been killed by the League of Smiles, but in the comic medium, we all know death is a very tenuous thing. To be fair, I didn't put together how Merrymaker pulled off the switch with the body until the story explained it which was pretty stupid on my part considering one of the League members was a dentist, but beyond that, it was a twist that was easy to see.

Doctor's Orders

The backup feature this week was Doctor's Orders which was quite a nice addition. This expands on Merrymaker's back story and personality, and I found it interesting just to hear a sane person analyze the criminal world. This whole feature is very tongue in cheek, and I found myself laughing a couple times throughout. The story's final caption reads, “The End?” Personally, I don't care if we ever see any of these characters again, but it was fun for a brief story, and it only makes sense that Gotham's psychiatric community would be so corrupt.

Conclusion 9/10

Yes, you can see the twist coming from a long ways off, but there were many more positives than negatives in this issue. Pick it up and enjoy.

Review: Detective Comics #16

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Nothin' But Smiles

Images will be added soon.

John Layman has taken the reigns of Detective Comics, and he has delivered three good issues. However, the last one left a little something to be desired with the “Death of the Family” cross over feeling extremely forced and undermining the strength of the original narrative. Furthermore, the lack of resolution between Ivy and Clayface was a bit irritating. Still, it was a pretty good issue, and I am eager to see what Layman has in store. I am a little cynical for just by viewing the cover I see that this issue continues the “Death of the Family” cross over event. I had hoped last issue would contain the only crossover, but it appears I have no such luck. Does this issue deliver a meaningful tie in that strengthens the issue, or does Joker's menace strain the fabric of the story?

In this issue, Ogilvy furthers his empire as Batman tries to deal with a new level of Joker threat.

The League of Smiles

This issue deals with the introduction of the League of Smiles, a group dedicated to worshiping Joker and creating crimes in his honor. I knew the League of Smiles were on their way due to solicitations, but for some reason, I had the impression that they would appear after “Death of the Family” concluded. Apparently I was wrong.

The League is an eccentric group who worship and mimic the methods of Joker. In some ways, this has been done most notably with the Jokerz in Batman Beyond, but unlike Batman Beyond's comical, cannon fodder, Joker imitating thugs, the League of Smiles seems to have some actual intellect and bloodlust. Adding to the intrigue of these killers is Batman's monologue which delivers and excellent examination of the psyche involved in a Joker worshipers head. Indirectly, it explains how Joker so often finds a group of people willing to fight and die for him despite his unpredictable and despicable nature.

There is also something larger at work with the League of Smiles as indicated by the final panel of the main story. I have no worthwhile predictions to make on the subject, but I do find the visual design quite interesting and distinct. I am interested to see how this develops.

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Whatever Happened to the Emperor Penguin?

Whereas last issue felt like the continuing story of Ogilvy with a little forced Joker in the mix, this issue felt like it was almost completely about the League of Smiles with only a brief and somewhat mysterious reference to Emperor Penguin at the beginning of the issue. This came as a surprise to me after the last issue ended with such a clear Ogilvy focus. I would not have predicted that the Emperor would be given a backseat in this issue, but that is exactly what happens.

However, my Penguin expectations were somewhat met in the backup story, Pecking Order, where we see the Emperor rally the force of his Empire to compete for the upcoming gang war caused by Joker's murder of various mob families with the Penguin umbrella. All the gangs are out for Penguin's blood which means Ogilvy has an uphill battle to fight before he can claim his throne.

I enjoyed the action of Ogilvy in this issue, but I didn't care for his visual design. In addition to taking the Penguin's name, he also adopts his cigarette smoking, big coat wearing, monocle squinting aesthetics. I see no point in this nor does it seem particularly in character for Ogilvy. Perhaps I am misreading him, but Ogilvy looked to me like a character who secretly despised Penguin for all years, yet he immediately takes on Penguin's name and appearance? It doesn't feel right to me.

Where's Batman?

In addition to Emperor Penguin losing the spotlight, Batman kind of gets lost in the shuffle too. We here his thoughts through most of the issue, but the story focuses less on the actions of Batman and more on the actions of various criminals. It's not a bad story, but it just came off as unexpected when the previous three issues have been solidly focused on Batman and the Penguins.

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Fabok, Cox, and Clarke

The art team is really bringing its A game. I believe Fabok is on his way to becoming one of my favorite artists. Everything he does is simply good, and I noticed that he has a knack for faces in this issue. All characters look quite distinct which is not something that can be said for many artists. Cox does the colors for the main story, and he also does a great job. Colors pop right off the page, and they do a good job of setting the mood. Clarke does the art for the backup feature, and though I would not say it is quite as good as the main attraction, it is still very pretty work In both the main story and backup, there are panels which are quite grisly, and the art is strong enough to churn the appropriate gut reaction from readers.

Conclusion 8/10

Layman again proves that he has what it takes to write Batman. This issue does not blend too smoothly with the expectations set up last month, and I felt there was a bit too much happening this time around, but this is still a very fun issue. Anybody looking for a good Batman story should enjoy it. If you are considering purchasing this for the Death of the Family tie in, it may or may not be a good purchase depending what you want. Joker is not in this nor does it appear that he will be in the next issue, but it is a good story which explores the fallout of Joker's reappearance, so make your decision from there.

More Recent Reviews:

Worlds' Finest #8

Batwing #16

Legends of the Dark Knight #32

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Review Detective Comics #15

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The Dirt Nap

Detective Comics had a long less than impressive run in DCNU, but the team of Layman (writer) and Fabok (artist) have done a great job of turning the title around. Many have complained the Penguin is an overused  character in the DCNU, and though I do not strictly disagree, I have been greatly enjoying this Penguin-centric story. Besides as I have said before, the true villain of the piece is Ogilvy, and the story will rise and fall on how Layman develops his character. Added to the story’s already full narrative, Death of the Family has come to visit Detective Comics, and it was revealed in Batman #14 that Joker has a mysterious plan for Oswald Cobblepot. Does the Clown Prince of Crime add to or take away from the story as we witness Penguin’s unfolding plight?

In this issue, Poison Ivy gets buried alive, Clayface remembers his time with Ivy then attempts to kill Batman, and Ogilvy makes his move.

Sympathy for Clayface?

It’s not every story that leaves you feeling sorry for that twisted ball of mud, but this issue certainly manages the feat. Clayface has been fooled by Ivy, and I couldn’t help but feel his pain. This certainly is not the first story featuring Basil Karlo as a sympathetic figure, but it is nice to be reminded that though fundamentally selfish and petty, Karlo is a villain capable of emotional depth. Clayface’s ability to be a physical threat to Batman like few others, his capability for blending in to any environment at will, and his fundamental emotional complexities make him my most wanted future Batman cinematic villain, and all the qualities that make him great come shining through in this issue.  

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Ogilvy the Mastermind? Oy Vey!

As I predicted, Ogilvy is revealed to be the master manipulator of this plot. I looked forward to this being revealed, but I hoped it would be a long time coming. Ogilvy’s betrayal of the Penguin was practically inevitable, but it would carry much more weight if he had been a loyal thug for a couple of years as opposed to a couple of months. Granted, I know this long term planning is difficult to do, but having him turn traitor so quickly was something that I saw from a mile away, and I find it a little disappointing in the lackluster presentation of the development. From interviews, I know that Layman originally had an alternate plan for getting this story from point A to point B, but when Death of the Family popped up, it just presented an easy tool to move the story forward. I’m sure as a writer for a Batman title, you have to be able to roll with those sort of editorial changes, but I cannot help wondering if Ogilvy’s rise to power might have been a little more interesting than, “Joker kidnapped Penguin. Now I am in charge,” if that easy plot device had not been available.

I am also disappointed with the way the Ogilvy used his power. Again, the betrayal was practically inevitable, but what type of villain would Ogilvy become? There are so many potential options, yet Layman uses the most boring one and makes Ogilvy merely Penguin Jr. (not his actual title, but his real code name is nearly that bad) Disappointing.

The Ivy Agenda

This issue seems to be almost completely defined by its villains, but I do not mind that. Ivy plays an interesting role in this issue as we learn more about her interactions with Ogilvy and Clayface. I do have to say that if I were trying to kill Poison Ivy, the last place I would put her is the ground. Granted, the death trap seemed solid, but still, it seems like there must be a better way…such as just shooting her in the head. Granted, this is one of those comic book clichés that pop up from time to time, but again, it is a little disappointing.

The Batman Agent Orange Action Figure!

I was just walking through the toy section at Walmart the other day while waiting for some prescriptions to be filled when I came upon the Batman action figure section of the toy department. I grinned when I looked at all the extravagant Batman costumes and gear that are nothing like what Bruce actually uses in the comic books or even the cartoons.

Well, not so any more. Batman wears a costume in this issue which looks like it came right out of a toy box. Wow!

I was a little torn on what I thought about this outfit, but in the end, I decided I was cool with it. Why not give Batman a different outfit every once in awhile? It looked pretty cool.

Love in Bloom

Love in Bloom is the backup story, and if you did not feel sorry for Clayface in the first half of the story, you definitely will after this. It turns out that Ivy had actually been working on turning Clayface into her bodyguard for a while now, and in the backup feature, you find out just how she was doing it. It is pretty interesting and connects emotionally, but it has one major flaw…(Spoiler) it ends on the verge of a fight. Clayface appears that he is about to tear into Ivy and then we see “Fin?” Lame.

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Death of Relevance

If you are thinking about buying this for the Joker tie in, don’t…at least not yet. It seems unlikely that anything important will happen in Death of a Family through this issue. In fact, I will summarize what happened regarding Death of a Family, and though I will spoiler warn you about this, you really will not be giving anything away if you read it.

(Spoiler) Penguin tells Ogilvy that Joker is forcing him to go to Arkham so he puts Ogilvy in charge of his operations.

Big whoop.

Ect.

The dialogue and art in this issue are very strong. The depictions of characters are all vibrant, interesting, and accurate. Fabok’s art looks excellent, and Andy Clarke looks great on the backup art as well.

This issue is missing two pages which is extremely peculiar. Why did DC shortchange those buying this four dollar book?

Conclusion 8/10

If you have been following Detective Comics, you definitely want to pick up this issue, but if you are just wanting to buy it for the tie in or are looking for a good jumping on point, this is not the book for you. It is not bad, but there are a bunch of little things that make this issue a disappointment when compared to the last two issues.

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Detective Comics #14

Transient

Unnatural Selection

For a long time, the DCNU volume of Detective Comics was rubbish, but things seem to be taking a turn for the better under the guidance of John Layman. While not a perfect issue, Detective #13 worked as a very entertaining opening act for a story centered on Penguin’s fight with Bruce Wayne for the title of head philanthropist of Gotham. Of course, Penguin is vying for the title by engaging in many actions which do not speak to brotherly love. Does issue fourteen prove to be a contender, or is it nothing more than a washout?

In this issue, Penguin saves the life of Bruce Wayne. To add insult to Wayne’s already bruised ego, he soon realizes that he must intervene before Poison Ivy destroys one of Penguin’s legitimate businesses.

The Way to This Man’s Heart

The easiest way for a story to worm its way into my heart is surprise, and I must admit, this issue surprised me. Though it makes perfect sense, it never occurred to me that Penguin might step in to rescue Bruce Wayne. Both as a move for Penguin and a plot twist from Layman, this was a stroke of genius. Batman’s conflict with Ivy was even more intriguing. While readers are left to guess if and how Batman is resisting Poison Ivy’s charms, Layman is cooking up a couple more twists for the end of the issue. The main story kept me always eager to turn the next page.

Transient

The True Villain of the Piece

I believe Ogilvy is going to prove to be the true villain of this arc. He had an appearance on the cover of the first issue, he dominated the entire backup of issue #13, and he operated as both the point man and the idea man behind all of Penguin’s operations in this issue. Simply surviving a death threat from Penguin alone is a worthwhile accomplishment, and turning a disaster into a victory deserves major praise.

I have little doubt that Ogilvy will see some serious development throughout the rest of the arc. The only question is what Layman has planned for this new character. Will he continue to be a supporting character for Penguin, will be become his own independent entity, or will he meet an unfortunate end?

The Writing Shines

Jason Fabok deserves serious praise for his work for the main story is beautifully rendered. However, the larger part of the glory goes to Layman who expertly paces the story. A lot of writers these days seem eager to charge from one action scene to another, and if dialogue has to be delivered, they cheat by implanting it in an action sequence. Layman takes the much more skilled route by relying on intelligent and legitimate interactions between Bruce and Damian to move the story forward. In addition to providing narrative, Bruce’s interactions with Damian in this issue were great fun in their own right.

Damian: “Where’s Pennyworth? He forgot to bring my breakfast today…are you listening?”

Bruce: “To complaints about a breakfast you’re perfectly capable of getting yourself? No, actually, I’m not.”

Good stuff.

Transient

The Poison Princess

Poison Ivy supposedly died at the end of Birds of Prey #12, so you would think they would try to address that, but sadly, they do not. At one point, both Bruce and Ivy say something to effect that her partnership with the Birds ended badly, but that hardly describes the seriousness of her wounds at Katana’s hands.

On the subject of Ivy, if you can find a virgin cover of this issue, you will notice that the ivy in the background forms a bat symbol.

Seeds & Dirt

In the backup story, Poison Ivy breaks into Arkham Asylum.

Sadly, this story simply does not live up to the first two-thirds of the book. It is not a bad story in any way, but it does not add anything so significant that it could not have been related in a few panels. The backup does reveal some important information that relates to the main feature, but I would rather have had a little mystery for the next month rather than have the cliffhanger at the end of the main narrative immediately resolved. That defeats the point of cliffhanger.

Conclusion 9/10

This is a great issue and well worth the price. It would have earned five stars had the backup feature been a little stronger.

Review: Detective Comics #13

Duck and Cover

The last two issues of Detective Comics were a disgrace to the name of Batman. For that reason, I was delighted to hear the series was getting a new writer, John Layman. I am unfamiliar with Layman's past work, but I have been reassured by some of his fans that we can expect great things. Does Layman manage to create a turn around for the series, or does Detective Comics continue to be an utter failure?

In this issue, Penguin has nasty plans for both Bruce Wayne and Batman. Can Batman keep a lid on Gotham crime and still fulfill his duties as a billionaire playboy philanthropist?

The Cold Shoulder

I have seen little of Penguin in the DCNU, and as far as I know, this is the first story arc to focus on Gotham's Kingpin of Crime since the reboot. I was pleased to see that he has not been significantly changed via Flashpoint. He is still a crime lord with a mix of legitimate and corrupt businesses though there is a slight twist in Penguin's motivation for his current scheme. Personally, I think the motivation fits well with the character.

Return of the Ghost Dragons

I have not heard anybody mention it, but this issue features a newly rebooted team, The Ghost Dragons. I suppose it is a fairly obscure team appearing almost exclusively as an enemy to Tim Drake in the Robin and Batman comics. Whereas in the DCU, the Ghost Dragons were merely a street gang, they are now shown as a group of assassins. At different times, the DCU gang was run by Lynx, who was killed by Casandra Cain, and Sir Edmund Dorrance, the father of Bane who was last seen as a Black Lantern fighting Batman (Dick). Perhaps we will soon witness a return of these characters.

Massive Improvement

There is no doubt about it, Layman does a much better job with Detective than Hurwitz managed. In this issue, Layman manages to develop new characters, incorporate the larger Bat Family without losing focus on Bruce, explore the role that charitable giving plays in crime fighting, and delve into the mind of Penguin. Layman introduces many more pieces of Bat tech, but he stays on the right side of the line between cool gadgetry and devices that do everything for Bruce. The devices are advanced, but it is still the man behind the cowl who puts together the pieces.

Jason Fabok

Fabok does an excellent job in the art department. He seems especially talented at drawing faces. In the first panel, he manages to capture perfectly the kind of forced grins people wear when posing for a picture, and the subtlety in characters expression continues throughout the issue. The design of the Bat Suit and the Ghost Dragons are equally well done, and of course the coloring team deserves credit for their work as well.

IQ Test

I already miss Tynion IV's work on the Batman backups, but perhaps I should not because Layman does a great job writing his own backup story here. IQ follows one of Penguin's henchman as he shows a newcomer to Gotham the ropes. The issue gives good insight into how the common thugs view and deal with Batman. I hope that Penguin's henchman which appeared in the main story, the backup, and the cover continues to be well used.

Conclusion 8/10

It looks like we can look forward to a good arc from Layman. If you are a Penguin, Detective Comics, or Layman fan, you should definitely pick this issue up. Any Batman fan will have a good time with this read.

Detective Comics #12

The Killer Inside

This is my first issue of Detective Comics to read since the reboot, and boy was it a disappointment. This whole issue was a mess.

The Unexplained

The first panel starts off with Bruce being covered by an unknown substance. He soon manages to start a fire which somehow causes this...stuff to disintegrate. Something is said about a chemical reaction and flames causing it to burn itself out, but beyond that meager narrative, no explanation is ever given to clue in new readers as to what was going on just before the issue started. I understand that the last story probably ended on a cliffhanger, but it would only have taken about two lines of inner monologue to give new readers a half a clue what was happening. With it being such an easy thing to incorporate into the story, I can only assume that this was an accidental omission or that writer Tony Daniel left it out for his own stylistic reasons to which I say, "Bad decision, Mr. Daniel!" Though this was the most confusing part of the story, it was not the only time I was left scratching my head attempting to make sense of the unexplained.

Bad Dialogue

Another major problem with the comic was the dialogue. The interaction between Batman and Alfred was especially horrid. Usually, Bruce treats Alfred with a dismissive respect. He is rarely rude to him, but he is used to having Alfred taking care of him. In other words, he never says thank you, but he never talks down to him either. In return, Alfred is usually wry and droll in subtly directing Bruce.

In 'Tec 12, all the dialogue felt off and at times a bit forced. Alfred came off as a know-nothing idiot who marveled at Bruce's genius while Bruce seemed to view Alfred as a nuisance. It was hardly the way they should be portrayed.

Ect.

The conclusion to the story marches on feeling like the inevitable end to a piece of uninspired fan-fiction. Thought the story ends with a literal bang, it resonates with an emotional fizzle.

The art work was not to my liking either. The faces of all the characters seemed off somehow, but I do not have enough of an artistic sense to say what exactly was wrong.

The one positive thing I can say for the issue is that Mr. Toxic did look like an extremely menacing villain though this could be due partially to the distorted artwork.

The Tell-Tale Face

The Joker backup story was excellent, and it is one of the best Harvey Bullock stories I have read in a long, long time. I would much rather have seen this stretched into a whole issue rather than suffer through the threat of Mr. Toxic. Despite the excellent backup, I can't recommend the comic since the main story is so shoddy.

Conclusion 3/10

This issue is bad and a disgrace to Batman's name.

Detective Comics #0

The Final Lesson

I’ve only read one issue of the DCNU Detective Comics previous to this one, but I was not impressed by the last issue. I thought Daniel’s writing was awful, and the art was a long way from good. Did issue zero fair any better?

In this issue, we get to see Bruce go to Japan and learn martial arts from a great master.

Disaster Once More

This issue was not as slipshod as the last one, but it was boring. This issue followed a classic (tired) Batman formula…admittedly, with a slight twist. Batman finds a love interest, a father figure, and a mother figure all in this one issue, and I bet you would never guess what ends up happening to them by the end of the story.

A large part of this issue revolved around Bruce learning bits of pseudo wisdom from his master, but ninety percent of the master’s teaching fell flat as far as I was concerned. If you read this issue, you’ll hear about darkness and light and burying emotions to become more than a man, but these are all old concepts, and they are not put together in such a way as to frame the role of Batman in a new light. The whole story is a throwaway.

My Compliments to the Artist

The art is very good in this issue. Richard Friend did a less than stellar job last time, but it seems he has handed the penciling back over to Tony Daniel. Daniel might be a poor writer, but his artwork is very nice.

I'm Calling Backup!

The backup story covers Alfred’s struggles during Bruce’s time away from Gotham. Once again, James Tynion IV does a great job with the backup story, and I wish that DC would make him the lead writer for this series.

Conclusion 5/10

There is really not much to say about this issue other than save your money for something better.