A Batman, Vol 11: The Fall and the Fallen Deep Dive – Too Much Canvas

TITLE: Batman, Vol. 11: The Fall and the Fallen
AUTHORS:
Tom King, Andy Kubert, Collin Kelly, Jackson Lanzing, Mairghread Scott, Steve Orlando, Tim Seeley
ARTISTS:
Mikel Janin, Jorge Fornes, Amancay Nahuelpan, Carlos D’Anda, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith (Inker). Eduardo Risso, Patrick Gleason. Cover by Kubert.
COLORIST:
Jordie Bellaire, Trish Mulvihill, Luis Guerrero, Tomeu Morey, Dave Stewart, John Kalisz
LETTERER:
Clayton Cowles, Steve Wands, Andworld Design, Tom Workman, Tom Napolitano
COLLECTS:
Batman #7074, Batman: Secret Files #2
PUBLISHER:
DC Comics
PRICE:
$24.99
RELEASED:
December 18, 2019

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

As a whole, City of Bane, which essentially starts here, is Tom King’s version of The Dark Knight Rises. Or if you want to go back further, the Knightfall storyline from the ’90s.

It’s also where the wheels come off King’s Batman run. I take no joy in saying that. But the proof is in the pudding, kids. So let’s dip our spoons in…

1. Daddy’s back.
The Fall and the Fallen is when we finally see Bane and Flashpoint Batman, a.k.a. Thomas Wayne from an alternate universe, team up to break our hero once and for all.

Yes friends, Thomas Wayne, one of Bruce Wayne’s parents, is here. You know about Bruce Wayne’s parents, right? They were murdered in front of their young son. It was that heinous act of violence that inspired Bruce’s vow to wage war on criminals for the rest of his life, and ultimately the creation of Batman. We saw these two come face-to-face in The Button, and it was a tremendously emotional experience for Bruce. One can only imagine what would go through his head if his father, even an alt-universe version, masterminded some kind of plot against him…

So tell me something: Why is Bane our big bad in this story? Why bring him into this when Bruce’s father shakes his son’s world to its core simply because he exists? Add the fact that this version of Thomas Wayne is his universe’s Batman, and Bane becomes redundant by comparison.

Batman #72 takes us back through the events of the series and outlines Bane’s plan, which all centers around the Bruce/Selina marriage. In the end, Thomas proposes a partnership.

But picture this, Thomas Wayne somehow survives the destruction of the Flashpoint universe and winds up in the DC Universe proper. He initially wants to seek out his “son,” but this alternate world intrigues him. So he opts to lay low, observe, and learn.

Remember, in The Button, Thomas pleaded with Bruce to stop being Batman and simply live his life. Devastated that Bruce hasn’t heeded his words, he decides he’s the only one that can stop his “son.” So he opts to do what must be done, by any means necessary.

In the end, it comes down to Batman against Batman. Father against son. It can be on the rooftops of Gotham, the Batcave, or anywhere really. All we need is the emotional impact of that showdown.

In the end, Catwoman shoots and kills Thomas in an act of desperation. Bruce then has to decide if he can forgive her or not. This would pay off the revelation from The War of Jokes and Riddles.

Not bad, huh? But no, instead we got another big fight with Bane. Yippee…

2. Father/Son Time
And what of what we actually get from father and son? They journey through the desert to get to a Lazarus Pit, occasionally stopping to fight members of Ra’s al Ghul’s personal guard. They take turns riding a horse, which is dragging a casket behind it. I won’t say who’s in it. But if you consider who we have in this scene and where they’re going it’s not too hard to figure out. There’s a really nice subtle reference to Batman: Knight of Vengeance, which is low key one of the best Batman stories of the last decade.

Old timey music has been a theme during Tom King’s run. In issue #73, he has Flashpoint Batman singing “Home, Home on the Range” to himself. Fun fact: It’s really weird to read that scene while playing Bing Crosby’s version of the song in the background…

Issue #74 is where things finally boil over between our Batmen. Thomas’ motivation, as always, is to get Bruce to surrender his life as Batman and live a normal life. That’s a hell of a premise for an issue. The trouble is, King spends far too much time harping on a story about a bedtime story Thomas told Bruce as a child about a bunch of animals eating each other in a pit. If I’m not mistaken, it’s an actual story written by Alexander Afanasyev, who’s widely considered to be the Russian counterpart to the Brothers Grimm. Father and son talk about the horror of it all, and why Bruce supposedly liked the story. They eventually get to the real meat of their conflict. But by the time they do, you feel frustrated because they’ve spent so much time talking about that damn story. Even during their inevitable battle in the pit, King uses the story as a narrative backdrop.

And all the while, I can’t help but think…Thomas Wayne, Batman’s dad, is standing right there. And this was the best they could do?

3. Dump the Duster
Okay DC, we get it. Batman v Superman was a thing. You guys liked the image of Batman in a duster and goggles, so you decided to use it. Fair enough.

But these issues came out in 2019. The movie came out in 2017. There was no need whatsoever to put the Flashpoint Batman in a duster and goggles just like the ones his “son” happened to wear several issues earlier in The Rules of Engagement.

If it looked cool, that would be one thing. But it doesn’t. Plus, it’s impractical and redundant even by superhero standards, and therefore silly.

What’s done is done. But let’s make this right. If you want to have Batman wearing his costume in the desert, that’s fine. Heck, if you want to have Bruce Wayne wear a duster and goggles, that’s fine. But you can’t have Batman wearing his costume in the desert with a duster and goggles. The two ideas are mutually exclusive. That’s got to be a rule in writing Batman from now on.

4. Batman Gone Batty?
Issues #70 and #71 focus on a needless, and at times silly plot point about people thinking Batman is losing it, and Jim Gordon severing ties with him.

When we open the book, our Caped Crusader is punching his way through Arkham Asylum, facing off with most of the supervillains you’d expect to see. It’s a great opportunity for Mikel Janin and Jorge Fornes to draw virtually all of the iconic rogues gallery.

The trouble is, King once again supplies us with bad Batman dialogue. Not the least of which is: “You challenge me with…nightmares? I live the nightmare! Bane! Why can’t you understand! I’m Batman! I am the nightmare.”

Shut up, already.

Given how convinced Batman is that Bane is faking insanity to remain in Arkham, and how intense and violent he is in his pursuit of the truth, Gordon becomes convinced that the Dark Knight has gone off the deep end. In issue #71 he tries to kick him off the roof of police headquarters (shown above).

That skepticism spreads to his extended family of superheroes, who are convinced Bruce is still grieving over his broken engagement to Selina Kyle. The situation is punctuated when he punches Tim Drake in the face.

There’s no worthwhile payoff to any of this. It all comes off like padding. Because it is padding. You can revolve an entire story arc around either of those moments. But instead they just come and go. That’s particularly a shame when it comes to the Gordon story, as there could have been some real substance to that.

5. Where’s Wesker?
This trade also contains Batman: Secret Files #2, which in theory is supposed to spotlight all “the villains who broke the Bat.” Okay, sure.

For what I think is the first time since Batman #23.1, Andy Kubert gets to write a Batman/Joker story. Things fare much better this time, largely because he goes the comedic route. Also, Amancay Nahuelpan draws a hell of a Clown Prince of Crime.

Colin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing put together a so-so story about the Psycho-Pirate leading a cult. Artist Carlos D’Anda overachieves on this one, which I did not expect.

Mairghread Scott and Giuseppe Camuncoli turn in a Riddler story that holds up pretty well. More amusing to me is the fact that “Sideburns Riddler” is still a thing.

Steve Orlando and Eduardo Risso steal the show with a Hugo Strange tale featuring multiple Batman “specimens.” Given he’s a mad doctor, I’ll let you jump to your own conclusions on what that story is about…

Tim Seeley teams with one of my personal favorites, Patrick Gleason, for a story late in Bane’s pre-Gotham days. I’m used to Gleason working with a much brighter color palette than John Kalisz provides here. That’s not a bad thing. It’s just different.

My big problem with this issue? No story about Arnold Wesker, a.k.a. the Ventriloquist. He’s on the cover, and plays one of the more interesting roles in Bane’s big scheme, as sort of Bane’s counterpart to Alfred. It’s a little disturbing, considering what happens to Alfred in the next volume.

6. Consistence and Versatility
The Secret Files issue notwithstanding, our drawing duties are split between Mikel Janin and Jorge Fornes. While The Fall and the Fallen may have its share of story problems, I can’t find much to complain about artistically. Both these men are awesome Batman artists very much in their element.

Mikel Janin was a star coming into this series. But he’s a superstar coming out of it. Speaking for myself, Janin’s art can now sell a book on its own. His line work is always super clean, his figure work consistent, and his character acting on point. I now look forward to specifically seeing his versions of Batman, the Joker, and even less flashy characters like Alfred and the Penguin. The fact that he’s got colorist extraordinaire Jordie Bellaire backing him up in this book does nothing but help, of course. But Janin’s style on its own is versatile enough to handle any story. Whether we’re on the streets of Gotham, the Source Wall at the edge of the universe, or anywhere in between.

Objectively, Janin’s best work in this book is probably issue #74, as that’s where the book hits its emotional crescendo and is really firing on all cylinders. But selfishly, I’m partial to issue #70 because Janin gets to draw some of the more obscure Batman villains. Calendar Man, Doctor Phosphorus, the Cavalier, etc.

It’s difficult to look at Jorge Fornes’ work without thinking of what David Mazzucchelli did with Batman: Year One. The figure rendering is similar, the texture is similar. Bellaire’s coloring doesn’t have the same faded palette that Richmond Lewis’ did. But it’s still reminiscent.

I can’t bring myself to complain about the similarities, because Year One is obviously one of the all-time greats. But that means Fornes is better in environments that are a little more mundane, and can have that noir-ish spin put on them. Street level scenes, Wayne Manor and Batcave scenes, etc. It’s no accident that a hero like Daredevil is also on his resume. But something tells me that, like Janin, he’s got a versatilty to him. One that isn’t necessarily apparent here. I’m anxious to see what he does next.

7. Too Much Canvas
When someone mentions Tom King the first thing that comes to mind, at least for me, is his 12-issue run on Vision. That was such a masterclass in comic book storytelling. It’s frustrating to think that someone who wove such a classic at Marvel could make these kind of mistakes on Batman.

What it all comes down to is too much canvas. Give an artist too much canvas to work on, and suddenly the focus of the art wavers. If any story has ever had too much canvas it’s City of Bane.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Astonishing Art: Rick Celis’ Batman Pulp Covers

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

The spiritual successors to Batman and other comic book superheroes were the heroes found in the pulp magazines of the early 20th century. You can actually trace some of Batman’s roots back to them, and characters like Doc Savage and the Shadow.

So it’s more than fitting that Rick Celis (who has been in this space before) lend his artistic style, which borrows from Batman: The Animated Series to pay tribute to the genre…

My personal favorite? The Black Mask cover. We never saw Black Mask in the series. But to see his rivalry with Catwoman renewed in this format is really cool. Plus, it’s a really memorable cover.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Weekly Comic 100s: Go Go Power Rangers, Dead Day, Suicide Squad, and More!

***”Weekly Comic 100s” keeps it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

God damn, did I miss some of these books. Go Go Power Rangers. Tom Taylor’s Suicide Squad. Alienated.

God damn it’s great to have them back.

TITLE: Go Go Power Rangers #31
AUTHORS: Ryan Parrot, Sina Grace
ARTISTS: Francesco Mortarino, Simona Di Gianfelice (Inking Assist), Raul Angulo (Colorist), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Cover by Eleonora Carlini and Angulo.
RELEASED: May 27, 2020

A new zord formation, the “White Tiger Mechazord” (NOT Megazord), makes its debut in this issue. That’s kinda cool. This series is just about done, but it’s still cranking out new things.

On the downside, this issue also shows us Jason, Zack, and Trini flat out lying to Zordon about the peace conference in Switzerland. They’re not even lying well. They come off like grade schoolers lying about why they don’t have their homework done.

“Uh….I went to a peace conference. In Switzerland!”

TITLE: Dead Day #1
AUTHOR: Ryan Parrott
ARTISTS:
Evgeniy Bornyajov. Colors by Juancho! Charles Pritchett (Letterer).
RELEASED:
May 27, 2020

Be VERY careful about your feelings for somebody. I’ll only half in jest say that’s the big message I took away from Dead Day #1, our second Ryan Parrott offering of the week.

Dead Day presents us with a world in which the dead come back as what I gather are zombies that can think and speak…? It’s still a little unclear. Either way, you’ve got that trusty plot point of main characters endangering themselves over a former or potential love interest.

My only complaint is that the figure drawing is a little off. Hopefully that tightens up with time.

TITLE: Suicide Squad #5
AUTHOR: Tom Taylor
ARTISTS:
Bruno Redondo, Adriano Lucas (Colorist), Wes Abbott (Letterer).
RELEASED:
May 26, 2020

They’re doing something to break up the usual “captives with brain bombs” formula, which I’m pleased with. This Taylor/Redondo/Lucas team has done a great job keeping me engaged. With new characters, nonetheless.

What’s more, it looks like we’re about to start integrating heroes like Batman and the Flash. Given Taylor’s approach to Suicide Squad, that offers a lot of intrigue.

Redondo’s style is fairly straightforward, though it still has a nice kinetic energy. In that respect, it certainly doesn’t hurt that we focus on a speedster for most of this issue. But my point stands.

TITLE: Rogue Planet #1
AUTHOR: Cullen Bunn
ARTISTS: Andy MacDonald, Nick Filardi (Colorist). Letters by CRANK!. Cover by MacDonald and Nic Klein.
RELEASED: May 27, 2020

Basically what we have here is a horror movie where the monster is an entire planet. Our heroes, naturally, are trapped on world.

Rogue Planet #1 is…okay. The story is okay. The art is okay. Nothing too remarkable. But nothing offensive. Nothing yet, at least. It’s one of those books that’s just kinda there. As such, I’ll pick up issue #2 if I can afford it. But I’m not sure there’s room in my stack for a book I know is strictly okay.

TITLE: Alienated #3
AUTHOR:
Simon Spurrier
ARTIST:
Chris Wildgoose, Andre May (Colorist), Jim Campbell (Letterer).
RELEASED:
May 27, 2020

Holy crap. This issue got dark.

Or perhaps “mature” is the right word. It zooms in on the teen angst stuff, which I liked. But then Sam and our little alien friend tackle…well, look at the cover and you can probably guess. It’s fine. There’s nothing offensive or wrong about it. But tonally it seems like a swerve turn.

How bad is it that with the world in the shape it’s in today, I found myself relating to the teen character griping about society on his YouTube channel?

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Weekly Comic 100s: Frankenstein Undone, Justice League, and More X-Men

***”Weekly Comic 100s” keeps it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

We’re going halfsies for this one. We’ve got two releases from this week, as well as two X-Men back issues. I’ve been diving further into Jonathan Hickman’s Dawn of X stuff. I must say, even if some of it has that typical X-Men level of convolutedness to it, I’m enjoying revisiting these characters and their world. And this is the first Hickman project I’ve really been able to immerse myself in. So it works two-fold.

TITLE: Frankenstein Undone #2
AUTHORS:
Mike Mignola, Scott Allie
ARTISTS:
Ben Stenbeck, Brennan Wagner (Colorist), Clem Robins (Letterer).
RELEASED:
May 27, 2020

I’m hardly offended by Frankenstein Undone #2. But I can’t say I’m incredibly enthralled either. Hopefully readers who speak Hellboy will be a little more invested.

Still, the art is on point. I really like the look of Undone‘s Frankenstein. He’s got a lot more bolts and has a more deformed and monstrous look to him, as opposed to the conventional Universal movie-inspired look the monster tends to have. It definitely lends itself to more interesting action sequences, as we see here when Frank fights off a big snow wolf.

TITLE: Justice League #45
AUTHOR:
Robert Venditti
ARTISTS:
Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira (Inker), Romulo Fajardo Jr. (Colorist), Tom Napolotano (Letterer). Cover by Francis Manapul.
RELEASED:
May 26, 2020

I can’t say I know this for a fact, but so far this story feels like it was meant for a DC Giant. As we’ve discussed previously, those sold at retailers and meant for average joes. Thus, everything is drawn very simply and spoken plainly. I’m sure a few lines were inserted to indicate John Stewart is the leader. We’ve even got some paint-by-numbers mind-control fights between League members. Batman vs. Superman, Wonder Woman vs. Aquaman, etc.

That being said, none of this is meant as a dig. The issue, and thus far the story overall, is enjoyable for what it is.

TITLE: Marauders #1
AUTHOR:
Gerry Duggan
ARTISTS:
Matteo Lolli, Federico Blee (Colorist), Cory Petit (Letterer). Cover by Russell Dauterman & Matthew Wilson.
RELEASED:
October 23, 2019

Other potential titles for Marauders: Put the Kitty Outside and What If the X-Men Were Superhero Pirates, and Places to Buy Booze for Wolverine.

No, it’s true. Kitty Pryde buys Wolverine a bunch booze in this issue.

I jest, but I really like this book a lot. It reminds me of the most recent volume of X-Men: Gold, which Kitty also happened to be the lead in. It’s got an easy concept with familiar characters. Gerry Duggan also gives us some fun character moments and dialogue. I had no idea about Marauders until recently. But I’m sticking with it going forward.

TITLE: Excalubur #1
AUTHOR:
Tini Howard
ARTIST:
Marcus To, Erick Arcinega (Colorist), Cory Petit (Letterer). Cover by Mahmud A. Asrar.
RELEASED: October 30, 2019

I’ve loved Marcus To’s work on Red Robin and Nightwing. So I was very excited to see his name here. He delivers accordingly.

But despite To’s presence, this book didn’t do much for me. Blasphemous as it may be to say, I tend to zone out when Marvel or DC go into Arthurian lore. And of course, that’s the centerpiece of Excalibur. A mysterious plant shows up in Avalon, and Morgain La Fey traces it back to Krakoa.

Apocalypse being on the team is intriguing. But it’s not enough to keep me hooked. Not now, at least.

(Special thanks to Super Fan Productions for an advance review copy of Frankenstein Undone #2.)

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Weekly Comic 100s: Year Zero, Disaster Inc, DCeased, and More!

***”Weekly Comic 100s” keeps it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

It seems like this is more or less the last “COVID-19 comic book week” we’ll be having, as next week things start shipping from Diamond again. (DC is a notable exception. But that’s another story.) Planned comics on the docket next week include Justice League, Suicide Squad, Alienated, and Frankenstein Undone. And of course, more X-Men back issues.

But in the meantime…

TITLE: Year Zero #1
AUTHOR: Benjamin Percy
ARTISTS: Ramon Rosanas, Lee Loughridge (Colorist), Sal Cipriano (Letterer). Cover by Kaare Andrews.
RELEASED:
May 20, 2020

I’ve always wanted to see a story like The Walking Dead, or a similar zombie apocalypse story take this route. It’s even more relevant now that the COVID-19 pandemic has happened. How does a zombie apocalypse effect different parts of the world in different ways? This story is seemingly going to show us via characters in the U.S., Mexico, Japan, Afghanistan, and a polar research base.

I think we’ll get a sense if this book fulfills its potential in about six issues. Which is unusual, for me it usually takes only one or two.

TITLE: Disaster Inc. #1
AUTHOR: Joe Harris
ARTISTS: Sebastian Piriz, Carlos M. Mangual (Letterer).
RELEASED:
May 20, 2020

I’ll credit Disaster Inc. for being educational. I’d forgotten all about the Fukushima power plant disaster of 2011. Just goes to show you how screwed up things are nowadays. I certainly didn’t know about the “nuclear samurai.” (Google it. It’s worth the read.)

Disaster Inc. is a delicious horror/mystery/ghost story that, thus far, is packed with intrigue and just the right amount of truth. It’s also got a highly unsettling butterfly theme going for it.  I’ll definitely be back for more.

TITLE: DCeased: Hope at World’s End #1
AUTHOR: Tom Taylor
ARTISTS: Dustin Nguyen, Rex Locus (Colorist), Saida Temofonte (Colorist). Cover by Ben Oliver.
RELEASED:
May 20, 2020

I’ve mostly stayed away from DCeased. Nothing personal. It’s just not my thing. This issue didn’t change that. But I appreciate a few little things about it. Perry White finally saying how proud he is of Jimmy Olsen. What appears to be a brief appearance by Stephanie Brown in her Robin costume. There’s also Dinah Lance as a Green Lantern. Didn’t realize that was a thing.

It’s always great to see Dustin Nguyen’s work. He’s great with content for young readers. But if this issue shows us anything, it’s that his style is versatile enough to handle more mature content.

TITLE: Batman: The Adventures Continue #4
AUTHORS: Alan Burnett, Paul Dini
ARTISTS: Ty Templeton, Monica Cubina (Colorist), Joshua Reed (Letterer).

We continue with the Deathstroke story here. I’d previously thought he’d have some kind of previous connection with Dick Grayson, given he’s widely known for being the New Teen Titans’ arch nemesis. But as it turns out Tim Drake, the Robin from The New Batman Adventures, is an ill-advised admirer of Deathstroke’s. That’s a cool little twist.

Another cool twist? This issue also makes Firefly is an exotic bug collector, as well as a pyromaniac.

TITLE: Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Battle Tales #1
AUTHOR: Michael Moreci
ARTISTS: Derek Charm, Arianna Florean & Mario Del Pennino, Luis Delgado (Colorist), Valentina Taddeo (Colorist), Jake M. Wood (Letterer).
RELEASED:
May 20, 2020

Nothing super special here. But nothing bad either. A flashback from Captain Rex about Anakin being a hero.

Florean and Del Pennino handle the flashback, while Charm handles things in the present. I’m partial to Charm’s work as his style is a little closer to the cartoon. As well as, incidentally, Ty Templeton’s style. But Florean and Del Pennino do just fine.

TITLE: X-Men #4
AUTHOR: Jonathan Hickman
ARTISTS: Leinil Yu, Gerry Alanguilan (Co-Inker), Sunny Gho (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer)
RELEASED: January 1, 2020

Magneto at the World Economic Forum. That’s really all you need to know about this issue.

Yes, Xavier, Apocalypse, Cyclops, and Gorgon are there too. But Magneto does most of the talking. And yes, there’s violence. But it’s not necessarily what you think it’ll be.

Credit to Yu, Alanguilan, and Gho for spending most of the issue drawing a dinner conversation. That’s not necessarily what people will ask for in their superhero comics. But they make it work. The novelty of Apocalypse is sitting there in a suit certainly helps.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Alex Ross Spotlight: Living with Mistakes

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Every creative person lives with mistakes, or work they don’t necessarily look back on fondly. To an extent it seems counter-intuitive to think of Alex Ross in such a light, as he’s in such a league of his own among comic book and superhero artists. But indeed, the man is vulnerable to the same things any artist is. Case in point, in Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross, he’s very critical of the lithography pictured at right. Gorgeous though it may be, Ross is quick to critique his rendering of Superman’s head.

In the latest video from his YouTube channel, Ross talks about living with certain insufficiencies and failures in his work. I’ve juxtaposed it with a video from two years ago, in which he talks about the importance of completing work. As a former journalist, I can very much identify with turning in work you’re not 100% satisfied with. But a deadline is a deadline, and sometimes the bullet simply has to be bitten.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Weekly Comic 100s: Lost on Planet Earth, Justice League, and More!

***”Weekly Comic 100s” keeps it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Lost on Planet…Wait…This is Earth, Right?

A special thanks goes out to Superfan Promotions this week for an advance review copy of Lost on Planet Earth #2.

If you’re an independent creator who’d like to have their work spotlighted in “Weekly Comic 100s,” please feel free to reach out to yours truly at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com. I’m (almost) always happy to lend a helping hand!

TITLE: Lost on Planet Earth #2
AUTHOR:
Magdalene Visaggio
ARTISTS:
Claudia Aguirre, Zakk Saam (Letterer)
RELEASED:
May 20, 2020

When you take away all the space age dressings, Lost on Planet Earth is about a quarter-life crisis. The concept that translates surprisingly well into this medium. But this book still needs to earn its sci-fi elements. In other words, convince me why this story needed to happen in a space environment. Because thus far it seems rather needless.

On the plus side, despite a touch of overacting, Claudia Aguirre delivers the goods artistically. Lost on Planet Earth is a fun read, despite being a bit of an underachiever thus far.

TITLE: Justice League #44
AUTHOR:
Robert Venditti
ARTISTS: Xermanico, Romulo Fajardo Jr. (Colorist), Tom Napolitano (Letterer). Cover by Francis Manapul.
RELEASED: May 12, 2020

I haven’t looked at Justice League in quite awhile. I tagged out early in Scott Snyder’s run. Don’t @ me.

Venditti’s doing some great work on Superman: Man of Tomorrow, and this issue is very much in the same vein. Things are written and drawn very simply and are easy to digest.

As our team faces mythological beasts released from Tartarus, I was surprised to see John Stewart is now the team leader. I like that. It reminds me of when Brad Meltzer made Black Canary the leader back in the day.

TITLE: Lois Lane #10
AUTHOR: Greg Rucka
ARTISTS: Mike Perkins, Andy Troy (Colorist), Simon Bowland (Letterer)
RELEASED:
May 12, 2020

Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder got snuck into this issue. Look at the first two-page spread where Montoya talks about the multiverse. They’re near the top. Perkins gives Lois some great facials in this issue as well.

Maybe it’s just been too long since issue #9, but I got lost when they brought the multiverse into things. To the point that I got a little frustrated. I’m waiting to see how Rucka starts to tie things together. But despite my love for him, my enthusiasm is waning.

TITLE: Bruno Sammartino #1
AUTHOR: John E. Crowther
ARTISTS:
Rich Perotta, Vito Potenza (Colorist). Cover by Nathan Smith.
RELEASED:
May 13, 2020

This Patreon-sponsored biography of Bruno Sammartino from Squared Circle Press looks very much like an indie comic. But as a wrestling fan who appreciates was Sammartino meant to the business, I can very much appreciate where this issue’s heart is.

We start during Bruno’s childhood in (*stops to count the syllables*) Pizzoferrato, Italy. I can only assume the book will take us up to his death in 2018.

The amateuer-ish look of this issue would normally be enough to get me to drop it. But the subject matter is strong enough to bring me back for another issue.

TITLE: X-Men #3
AUTHOR:
Jonathan Hickman
ARTISTS:
Leinil Yu, Gerry Alanguilan (Co-Inker), Sunny Gho & Rain Beredo (Colorists), Clayton Cowles (Letterer).
RELEASED: December 4, 2019

This series has a habit of slapping in big text pages filled with exposition. It’s unorthodox and a little off-putting. But I, for one, am just happy the exposition is there to begin with.

Emma Frost has a fantastic issue here. First a really fun little exchange between Jean Grey, then an encounter with a villain who’s more than a little honest about her costume. The art by Yu and the team compliments that moment brilliantly.

The villainous Hordeculture group returns for this issue. They’re botanists and terrorists. God, I love comics.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

A Shadow of the Batgirl Deep Dive – Opportunities and Errors

TITLE: Shadow of the Batgirl
AUTHOR: Sarah Kuhn
ARTISTS:
Nicole Goux, Cris Peter (Colorist), Janice Chiang w/Saida Temofonte (Letterers)
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Graphic Novels For Young Adults
PRICE: $16.99
RELEASED: January 29, 2020

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

There’s always been something special about the Cassandra Cain character. A certain X-factor that I can’t quite put my finger on. Perhaps it’s her unique origin story. Or the fact that she initially couldn’t communicate the same way everyone else did. Maybe it’s the diversity element. In the late ’90s, she was a young Asian girl among Batman’s other apprentices, who were primarily white males with dark hair. Perhaps it’s all that and more.

In any event, Cass may not be the most popular Batgirl there’s ever been. But she has a special connection with her fans. Thus, I was pleased to see her get the YA graphic novel treatment.

I enjoyed Shadow of the Batgirl. It’s a fresh and modern look at Cassandra Cain, and I’d argue the young-adult lens is perfect fit for her. But the book has some blaring flaws that I can’t seem to get past.

Cass’ origin is essentially unchanged. She’s the daughter of world-famous assassin David Cain, who trained her since birth to become a living weapon. Her regimen was so all-encompassing that she never learned to speak. Her language was combat. But when she runs away from that life to start anew in Gotham City, she must discover for herself who Cassandra Cain really is. But she won’t do it alone. She’ll have help from a few new friends. One of whom, a librarian named Barbara Gordon, knows quite a bit about the legendary Batgirl…

The Barbara Gordon stuff goes exactly where you think it’s going to go. Actually, Shadow of the Batgirl as a whole goes where you think it’s going to go. Which isn’t a bad thing. It hits all the right notes for a story about a young hero trying to find herself.

What’s more, Nicole Goux’s art is a tremendous fit for Cass. I don’t know if I’d call it “edgy,” as the promo copy on the back of the book does. But there’s an obvious Eastern influence to her work which fits the character like a glove. Personally, I found Goux’s art to be better suited to the dramatic and the dynamic. Her action sequences have a hard-hitting feel to them. Naturally, that’s an awesome quality to have if you’re working on Cass. Generally speaking, if Cass was fighting or moody, Goux was at home. Colorist Cris Peter also deserves a lot of credit for complimenting Goux’s work so well. His palette is a few shades darker than standard, and a little bit deeper. When Cass is in the dark, the result is delightfully moody.

While Cass’ supporting cast could easily have consisted of just Barbara, perhaps making for a more intimate feel between mentor and student, Sarah Kuhn fleshes out our supporting cast. Case in point, noodle shop owner and resident wise old sage Jackie Fujikawa Yoneyama. She’s got a nice Mr. Miyagi feel to her, offering wisdom, guidance, and even discipline to our young heroine. Like a surrogate parent, or the book’s answer to Alfred. Generally speaking, I enjoyed Jackie’s scenes a lot.

I was less fond of Erik, our love interest. There’s nothing wrong with him, per se. He just doesn’t do much to stand out. I’ll give Kuhn credit for making him sensitive and even a bit vulnerable, in contrast to Cass’ remarkable physical prowess. But other than that, he’s really only there to be pined over.

While very much enjoyable, for my money Shadow of the Batgirl has one major problem, one minor problem, and also misses a big opportunity

The minor problem involves Cass’ Batgirl costume. Not the thrown-together one we see her wear for a good portion of the book (shown at left). Rather, it’s the one she ends up with at the end. The one that’s supposed to be her officially-endorsed costume. Granted there’s a makeshift quality to that one as well, as Cass makes it herself. But the book lacks that all important awe-inspiring moment where she takes the legacy and the grandeur of Batgirl on her shoulders. Come to think of it, Cass’ original Batgirl costume wasn’t much to write home about either.

The major issue, at least in my mind, is almost funny. But it annoyed me and left me scratching my head for the first half of the book. When she first comes to Gotham, Cass creates a home for herself at the library. It’s there that Barbara is teaching a young writers class. The subject of which, at least while Cass happens to be watching, is Batgirl. We hear Babs say things like, “There’s nothing boring about Batgirl – she’s a hero!” and call her “Gotham City’s beloved daughter.”

In Shadow, Barbara is in her wheelchair but has yet to become the information broker to superheroes known as Oracle. The book doesn’t tell us what put her in the chair, but it seems like she’s still grieving. Thus, I could understand her using this writing class to work through some of her feelings about not being Batgirl anymore. The problem is the book never refers to it as such. So when we find out Babs’ secret, it feels very strange. Even egotistical. Certainly not behavior befitting either a hero or mentor.

Sadly, the book’s worst offense is that it doesn’t capitalize on what really made Cassandra Cain special in the first place. She wasn’t just unique amongst the Batman family. She was different than any other superhero you’d ever seen because she lacked conventional communication skills. Cass could barely speak, so she’d have to find other ways to express herself.

So many teens and young adults struggle to accept qualities that make them different, stand out, and in certain cases a little bit freakish. They see them as liabilities rather than potential strengths. While a dramatic example, Cassandra Cain certainly falls into that freakish category. I don’t think the book should have centered around her communication issues. But instead of giving her a standard YA love interest, why not use those pages to show her facing those challenges? It’s certainly not something you’d see in any other book. (At right is a small example from Cass’ original Batgirl run in 2000.)

Instead, Shadow opts for a more conventional route. Which is a shame, as Goux and colorist Cris Peteri certainly have the artistic chops to handle the increased emphasis on visuals rather than dialogue.

I definitely recommend Shadow of the Batgirl, especially for those who aren’t familiar with Cassandra Cain. It’s good book. In fact, I believe if it could have been a great book, had the raw materials been used a little bit differently…

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Alex Ross Spotlight: Green Lantern in Isolation

By Rob Siebert
Doesn’t Have a Green Lantern Ring. Wants One.

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, these days so many of us know so much more about isolation. Often times there’s nothing worse than simply having time to sit and stew in your own thoughts…

I got my Justice issues out recently. The 2005 maxi-series, written by Alex Ross and Jim Krueger, with pencils by Doug Brainwaite and paints by Ross, is essentially Ross’ giant love-letter to the classic Super Friends vs. Legion of Doom premise. All the various Justice League members face off against some of their greatest rivals who’ve all teamed up to take them down.

Part of Justice sees Sinestro trap Hal Jordan/Green Lantern in a black void that’s more or less outside the jurisdiction of the Guardians of the Universe. Jordan’s ring tells him he’s “outside the Guardians’ vast knowledge.” In other words Hal is alone, and no one’s coming to help. He may be on his own for eternity. Literally.

I’ve included some pages from Justice #3, #4, and #5. This is hardly the whole of Hal’s story. But it’s enough to give you a taste, and an idea of what happens to him.

This story is one of the elements of Justice that has always stayed with me, primarily because of that fifth page. Hal is so desperate for human connection of any kind that he asks his ring how he can create people with a will of their own. People, “who I don’t control? Or don’t disappear the moment I’m no longer looking at them.” The ring’s only and repeated response? “I do not understand the question.”

As long as we’re on the subject, here’s Alex Ross talking about the Silver Age version of the Green Lantern costume:

“There’s a unique aesthetic value to the Hal Jordan Green Lantern that sets him apart from all the other heroes – he wears green, and he has brown hair while everyone else has blonde or black hair and blue eyes. And the white gloves – a superhero withwhite gloves? But it works, and it translates beautifully to the aliens of the GL Corps. You can put any life form in that suit and it’s instantly recognizable. Gil Kane’s costume design is perfect.”

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

A Batman, Vol.10: Knightmares Deep Dive – Over His Head

TITLE: Batman, Vol. 10: Knightmares
AUTHOR: Tom King
ARTISTS: Travis Moore, Mitch Gerads, Mikel Janin, Jorge Fornes, Lee Weeks, Amanda Conner, Dan Panosian, John Timms, Yanick Paquette
COLORISTS:
Tamra Bonvillain, Jordie Bellaire, Dave Stewart, Lovern Kindzierski, Paul Mounts, Timms, Nathan Fairbairn
LETTERER:
Clayton Cowles
COLLECTS: Batman #6163, #6669
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $17.99
RELEASED: September 11, 2019

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead***

Need to catch up? Boy, have I got you covered. Check out Vol. 1: I Am Gotham, Vol. 2: I Am Suicide, Vol. 3: I Am Bane, Batman/The Flash: The Button, Vol. 4: The War of Jokes and Riddles, Vol. 5: The Rules of Engagement, Vol. 6: Bride or Burglar?, Vol. 7: The Wedding, Volume 8: Cold Days, and Volume 9: The Tyrant Wing.

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

He did it again, didn’t he? That sly son of a…

You’ll recall back in Batman #24, Bruce Wayne proposed to Selina Kyle. Huge deal. Huge. A historic moment for both characters. One that could shake up Batman’s whole world depending on Selina’s answer. But of course, they left us with a cliffhanger.

But when Batman #25 came out, we didn’t get one. What we got was the beginning of The War of Jokes and Riddles, a tale from Batman’s past that he had to tell Selina about before she answered. Issue #24 came out on June 7, 2017. Batman #32, the issue where we finally get Selina’s response, didn’t come out until October 4. We had to wait until fall to get the answer because…um…because DC said so. (Although it was pretty obvious she was going to say yes.)

Fast-forward to December 5, 2018. Batman #60 is released, and another bombshell is dropped. The Batman of the Flashpoint universe, Thomas Wayne, not only survived the events of The Button, but has teamed up with Bane against his alt-universe son. Thomas Wayne vs. Bruce Wayne. Father vs. Son. Batman vs. Batman! The stage was set!

Then in the very next issue we got…no answers. Instead we got the issues collected in this book (with two exceptions that we’ll get to in a later date). We wouldn’t see Flashpoint Batman again until May 1, 2019.

Why DC and Tom King loved making us wait so long for cliffhanger payoffs is a mystery to me. But I’ll say this much: Knightmares is a better book than The War of Jokes and Riddles.

1. I Dreamed a Dream…
Toward the end of the book, we discover Batman is hooked up to a contraption that’s giving him very vivid nightmares. I say that not to spoil anything, but to provide context. Plus, between the Knightmares title and what happens once the book starts rolling, it’s pretty easy to see something’s up. Each collected issue contains one of our hero’s bad dreams.

This is the final volume before we get into the “City of Bane” story, which is an astounding 16 issues long. With that many pages to fill, it’s no wonder it felt immensely padded. Like they were just trying to fill space between plot points. While I consider Knightmares a good read, I’ll argue King starts to do that here. It’s a trend that ultimately forces him to limp into the home stretch. For the most part, these issues work. The “City of Bane” issues don’t.

We kick things off in issue #61, as Batman investigates the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne. The catch? We seem to be in the present day, and young Bruce Wayne is very much present and able to interact with his older self. Obviously it’s a “What if?” story. But it’s not what you might expect.

Travis Moore returns for this story. Once you reach the end, you’ll see how that’s fitting. Colorist Tamra Bonvillain really shines, especially early on. Her use of reds and oranges to depict the lights of Gotham City, contrasted with the deep blacks you’d expect from a Batman story are reminiscent of Francesco Francavilla’s more recent work on the character. That’s damn good company to be in.

2. “They call me MISTER PIG!!!”
Issue #61 is a good start. But here’s where business really picks up. Our sole artist is Mitch Gerads, who almost always does phenomenal work with King. With Batman #62, they create something truly unsettling. At times even horrifying. It opens with our hero hanging upside down in the back of a butcher’s shop, and he’s got some company: Professor Pyg.

And there’s blood. Lots and lots and lots of blood.

I think Professor Pyg, or at least this King/Gerads version of Professor Pyg, is what a lot of fans want the Joker to be like. A horror movie villain with a funny gimmick. Of course, the Joker is so much more than that. But Professor Pyg? As far as that horror villain territory is concerned, he’s got a solid cut of the market share.

This is a really beautiful issue in a twisted sort of way. It’s like a Saw movie with terrifying, horror flick lighting. Perhaps more importantly, when we start the story, Batman is scared. Not that fear gas-induced fear either. He’s genuinely afraid, as any of us would be. Thus, we’re pulled that much harder into the issue. There’s also a lot of confusion on Batman’s end. Why is he there? How did he get there? Why is he unable to hear what Pyg is saying? We follow Batman’s train of thought as he pushes through his fear to defeat his opponent.

And every bit as unsettling as the setting, the villain, and the frantic confusion, is the swerve turn on the final page.

3. Guest-starring…
A Batman/Constantine team-up sounds pretty cool, right? Unfortunately, that’s not what we get here. Not exactly, anyway.

In issue #63, Mikel Janin returns to give us the ending we all wanted for Bruce and Selina. They get married, go on a tropical honeymoon, share big romantic kisses on rainy Gotham City rooftops. All seems well. Then Constantine shows up to tell Batman not only is this a dream, but something awful is going to happen. Remember this is a Batman story, where everybody has dead parents, dead spouses, etc. So even if it weren’t a dream, there’s a 50/50 chance he’d be right anyway.

Why Constantine? I think the logic is “Why not?” Are there characters from Batman’s world that might fit this role better int theory? Sure. But no one so obvious that it ruins anything. I get the sense King just wanted the chance to write Constantine, so he wound up in this issue.

Ditto for the Question in issue #66, in which the framing device is Selina being interrogated about why she left Bruce at the altar. Jorge Fornes is on the pencil here, and he fits a Question story like a glove. Less fitting is Selina smoking a cigarette during the exchange, which I don’t think we’ve seen her do at all in King’s run up to this point. It feels very forced. Like they were looking for that one detail to hit that noir-ish nail on the head, and they just gave her a cigarette because they could.

Issue #66 is also where we start re-treading ground. All this stuff about how Selina sees Bruce? We’ve been reading about it for much of the last 60 issues. There’s no reason to go back there, with the Question no less, unless you’re trying to fill space. It’s a fun issue. But its intentions are clear in hindsight.

Issue #67 consists of one long chase scene, as Batman pursues another masked man across Gotham City. Telling you who the individual in question is would take the punch out of the issue. But it’s worth it for those last two pages. There’s some subtext that you have to read into. But it’s pretty easy to get. Fornes is back for this one, alongside the amazing Lee Weeks. Both those men do a hell of a job capturing that Batman: Year One vibe. Again, mostly stuff we’ve already seen. But there’s still greatness here, in one of the best single issue’s of King’s Batman run.

4. “Make a lane for Lane!”
Amanda Conner does a guest spot for issue #68. As such, it’s not surprisingly we focus mostly on female characters. Superman and Lois Lane are back, as we see what might have been a bachelor and bachelorette party respectively. While Bruce and Clark have a quiet night in, an intoxicated Selina Kyle and Lois most certainly do not. The Fortress of Solitude has never seen that kind of fun…

Yes, King backtracks again here. But if I had to choose one thing for him to go back to, there’s a hell of an argument to be made for the “Super Friends” dynamic. Specifically between Catwoman and Lois Lane. Their dynamic in this issue specifically is sheer joyful and colorful comic book fun. The kind of story that’s practically begging to be adapted into animation. Though if it’s for one of the kids shows they’ll have to cut out the liquor. (Not to mention all the stripping Superman robots.) By God, that almost defeats the whole damn purpose.

The downside? With just three pages left we lose Conner. As her style is so distinct, it’s an abrupt jolt to suddenly switch to fill-in artists. Pun intended: It’s a real buzzkill.

5. “Will You Dance With Me?”
The book closes with, of all things, a dance.

It’s only natural that we close with Bruce and Selina. Especially since almost this entire book takes place in Bruce’s head. While the issue does bounce back and forth between them and a Mikel Janin training scene with Bane and Flashpoint Thomas Wayne, the meat of the issue is in an extended dance sequence. But it’s hardly the Batusi. Yanick Paquette puts out a career issue as the two characters literally slow dance through a dream, through Gotham, through their history.

It’s a positively outstanding, and truly unique usage of the visual nature of the comic book medium. In yet another backtrack, Selina goes through multiple costume changes as she did in issue #44. But in two-page spreads such as the one above, we literally track our characters’ dance steps across the page. The use of sheet music is an absolute stroke of genius, which instantly makes this comic distinct among the thousands upon thousands in Batman’s history.

What’s more, because this is a dream there’s a subtext to it that I really enjoy. The scene is written as Bruce asking Selina why she left him. Her response involves his vow as a child, and how he can never really love her because of his devotion to the Batman, etc. But of course, the question Bruce is really asking is, “Why did she leave me?” Via a dream, he’s venting his own doubts about whether he can ever really love another person. And it ends in pretty much the manner you’d expect such a dream from Batman to end.

But the creme de creme, the moment of moments, comes on the final page of the issue and the final page in Knightmares overall…

Batman friggin’ cries. He doesn’t openly weep. But he cries. It’s not even played up at all. It’s beautifully subtle. Just two little strokes of Paquette’s pencil.

Issues like this are part of what makes Tom King’s Batman run so frustrating. Because he is a good writer. He’s a good Batman writer! He knows what he’s doing. But it feels like he got in over his head. The larger story he was trying to tell got too large and in the end he lost focus. That’s such a damn shame, given how many little gems we find in this run.

Incidentally, the song from issue #69 is one King has used before in his series. Sophie Turner’s “Some of these Days.” It dates back to the ’20s. It’s not required listening. But it’s a great little supplement. I recommend it.

6. Waking Up
There are a few collections in this Batman series that you flat out don’t need to read. Technically, this is one of them. But like Cold Days, it gets a recommendation from me. It’s not an amazing character study altogether. But like Tom King’s Batman run as a whole, it surprises you with moments that are absolute classics.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.