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A Batman, Vol. 3: I Am Bane Review – Jokerize Your Fries?

TITLE: Batman, Vol. 3: I Am Bane
AUTHOR: Tom King
PENCILLERS: David Finch, Mitch Gerads, Clay Mann
COLLECTS: Batman #1620#2324
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $16.99
RELEASED:
Aug 30, 2017

***Need to catch up? Check out the first two volumes: I Am Gotham and I Am Suicide.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Bane has never been the most sophisticated of characters. Created in the early ’90s, he was essentially the Bat-books’ answer to what Doomsday was in the Superman books. A big brute who could physically overpower the hero. A ‘roided up dude in a luchador mask, he certainly looks the part. But unlike Doomsday, who was basically a mindless killing machine, Bane was intended to have more depth. He had a tragic backstory and a cunning mind to match his physical dominance.

Oddly enough, I Am Bane explores the character’s more layered side, while at the same time making him look like a big dumb ape at certain points. It’s actually a fascinating balancing act.

After pulling the Psycho-Pirate from Bane’s clutches in Santa Prisca, Batman is now preparing for a full on assault from his old enemy. No one close to Bruce Wayne is safe. Adamant about taking Bane on alone, Batman places Alfred, Claire Clover (a.k.a. Gotham Girl), and the Psycho-Pirate in perhaps the unlikeliest of places to protect them: Arkham Asylum. Now Bane must make his way through a living hell to confront the Dark Knight. Once again, these two arch rivals will square off. In the end, one will be left broken.

I’ll credit author Tom King with giving Bane’s invasion of Gotham the weight it deserves. The first two issues have a grim tension in the air. In issue #16, Bruce insists that most of his surrogate family members flee the city, fearing for their lives. He hides Psycho-Pirate and the others inside Arkham, in a chamber designed by Mister Miracle. But Batman’s obsessive preparation isn’t enough, as Bane still manages to strike at those close to him, including Catwoman. The tone is terrific, the threat feels real, and we seem to have the makings of a hallmark Bane story…until the big man opens his mouth in issue #18.

King, David Finch, and their team are clearly going for classic early ’90s Bane. We get a big, bloody, brutal fight intercut with flashbacks as Bane taunts our hero. Think Batman #497, when the character broke Batman’s back. But King goes way too far over the top with Bane’s dialogue. In issue #18, as he rambles off comparisons between himself and Batman’s other enemies, he almost seems to be reciting a poem…

“I am not a joke! I am not a riddle! I am not a bird or a cat or a penguin! I’m not a scarecrow or a plant or a puppet! I am not your broken friend! I am not your regretful teacher! I am not a child’s fairy tale! I am not a circus act here to amuse and frighten you!”

Alright, dude. We get it…

Things get worse in issue #19, when he storms Arkham and starts running into various villains. He spouts off little one-liners. Thing that would be fine on their own, but clumped together in one issue almost make Bane a parody of himself.

Two-Face: “…what’re you offering?”
Bane: “Pain. I offer pain.”

Scarecrow: “What nightmares are you having?”
Bane: “I don’t have nightmares, I GIVE nightmares!”

Mr. Freeze: “Impossible…”
Bane: “Not impossible. Bane.”

The fight winds up ending on yet another stupid, overblown catchphrase. Not from Bane, but from Batman. The sad thing is that the action itself is pretty good, for the most part. If King had trimmed a lot of this excess verbiage and allowed the art to speak more for itself, this would have been much more effective. I understand wanting to show the animalistic side of Bane. But they overdid it.

I will say, however, that the contrasting flashbacks between Bruce’s childhood and Bane’s are very well done. There’s a school of thought that many of Batman’s villains double as examples of how Bruce could have turned out after his parents were killed, had circumstances been different. This is about as on-the-nose as you can get in that respect. But it works.

What doesn’t work as well for me is the Batman-themed fast food restaurant we see in issue #16. Dick, Jason, Damian, and Duke drag Bruce there for a family meeting of sorts. It’s decked out various paraphernalia from the various Batman heroes and villains. The scene opens with Bruce talking to a kid behind the counter, who’s wearing a cheap Batman mask. He asks Bruce if he wants to “Jokerize your fries?” I get what they were going for. There’s a fun meta aspect to having these characters see their own licensing and merchandising. “Jokerize your fries” is actually a pretty good line. But from an in-story perspective, using the most feared man in Gotham City’s likeness to sell fast food stretches the gag too far for me. I understand that’s part of the joke. But to me that would be the equivalent of selling Bin Laden burgers in the real world.

David Finch handles most of the art in I Am Bane. I’ve been pretty critical of his work. But I’ve also said that if you have to have him, you want him on dark or gritty stories like this. I Am Bane is one of his better recent outings. In issue #16, he has the extremely unenviable task of drawing Bruce, Dick, and Jason, all unmasked in the fast food scene. They’re all handsome, dark haired, clean shaven dudes. Finch has to make them all distinct and recognizable. The job he does isn’t amazing. But it’s serviceable. Thankfully, they’re not all wearing the same clothes, as they were in that creepy splash page in The Court of Owls.

Like many artists, Finch draws most of his superhero characters like competition bodybuilders. Thankfully, that’s right in Bane’s wheelhouse. The character looks every bit as gigantic and chiseled as he should without going overboard, which we saw from Finch’s work on the New 52 Dark Knight series. This version of Bane also has a great ferocity you don’t always see. That obviously works well during the big fight. One complaint: I’ve never liked it when artists put giant green tubes on Bane, as we see Finch do here. It brings back bad memories of Batman & Robin.

Inker Danny Miki (later joined by Trevor Scott) and colorist Jordie Bellaire compliment Finch very well. He’s got a team here that accentuates his strengths. Bellaire in particular is an absolute rock star.

After the main story, Mitch Gerads takes the pencil for issue #23, a standalone story featuring Swamp Thing. Despite being brutally titled “The Brave and the Mold,” it manages to be a fun issue. Gerads’ contributions to this series have been tremendous, going back to issues #15 and #16. He and King give us some fun visuals contrasting the vast difference in stature between Batman and Swamp Thing. A two-page spread with Bruce and the monster in Wayne Manor, shots of them in the Batcave and Batmobile, etc. The issue is broken into chapters that are separated via panels with text designed like silent movie intertitles, which is a cool tone device.

I’ve already talked at length about Batman #24, which contains a pretty big moment between Batman and Catwoman. A few months after its release, what has stuck with me is the exchange between Batman and Gotham Girl about happiness. We learn that Batman is Bruce Wayne’s attempt at finding happiness. As a longtime Batman fan, that notion fascinates me. We’re so used to Batman being dour, moody, and broody. So the idea that he’s doing all this to be happy is a little off-putting. But it makes a certain sense when you boil it down. In the end, that’s what we’re all trying to do, right? Find happiness. In that sense, Bruce is no different than anyone else.

By and large, the Bane portion of this book is a step down from I Am Suicide. But King, Finch, and the team really stick the landing with issue #23, and especially #24. There’s a lot of strictly okay stuff you’ve got to swim through. But when this book hits a homer, it really hits a homer. As far as issue #24 is concerned, that ball is still sailing.

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An All-Star Batman: My Own Worst Enemy Review – Road Trip!

TITLE: All-Star Batman, Vol. 1: My Own Worst Enemy
AUTHOR: Scott Snyder
PENCILLERS: John Romita Jr, Declan Shalvey
COLLECTS: All-Star Batman #15
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $24.99
RELEASED: April 19, 2017

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Let’s get the usual Scott Snyder spiel out of the way early. I like Snyder’s Batman stuff. He’s one of the best writers to pen the Dark Knight’s adventures in the last decade. But he does so many little things that are just infuriating. As such, otherwise brilliant stories become tainted so needlessly. Sadly, All-Star Batman, Vol. 1: My Own Worst Enemy is no  exception.

The dark side of Harvey Dent, a.k.a. Two-Face, is gradually taking over his twisted psyche. Harvey enlists Batman’s help to take him across the country and eliminate his dual identity once and for all. But Two-Face counters by blackmailing everyone in Gotham City. If Batman isn’t stopped, he’ll release every dirty secret he has. What’s more, the person that brings Batman down gets a fortune in untraceable cash. Batman, and his new apprentice Duke Thomas, are about to be hit from all sides.

Snyder’s premise is tremendous. The great thing about doing this kind of chase story with Batman is the near limitless amount of enemies you can bring in. In My Own Worst Enemy we see Killer Moth, Firefly, Black Spider, and Gentlemen Ghost. And that’s just the first issue. Of course, we also go higher up on the food chain with baddies like Killer Croc and the Court of Owls.

Snyder, John Romita Jr., and the team are clearly having fun with these action sequences. The opening scene with Batman, Firefly, and Killer Moth in the diner has some blaring flaws (more on those later). But the two-page spread on the left packs a hell of a punch.  The book as a whole has some of the most intense and energetic work Romita has done in quite some time. Certainly since he’s come to DC. We later get a sequence on top of a train, which leads to a gorgeous fight in a river between Batman and Two-Face. I also loved the fight with KGBeast in issue #3, which is so bloody it’s actually reminiscent Romita’s work in Kick-Ass.

As such, it makes sense that All-Star Batman and Kick-Ass had the same colorist: Dean White. As the blood continues to spill, the panels start to take on rusty colors, similar to what we see in the climax of the original Kick-Ass. What’s more, White’s touch makes some of the outdoor sequences really pop. That’s especially the case in issue #2, with the greens, browns, and blues. Though if I may say, Killer Croc might be a bit too bright. He’s Killer Croc, not Kermit the Frog.

What Snyder really nails in this book is the twisted psychology of Two-Face. The emphasis on secrets hammers home the point that everyone has a certain duality and dark side to their personality. A side which, if you believe Two-Face represents who they truly are. Snyder even takes us into the mechanics of Harvey and Two-Face. The two personalities can keep secrets from one another, influence each other’s behavior, etc. You get the sense these are aspects of the Two-Face character that Snyder has wanted to explore for awhile, but hasn’t had the chance. Details like this help to make My Own Worst Enemy one of the more compelling Two-Face stories in recent memory.

That’s why it’s all the more frustrating when Snyder sprinkles in moments that seem tremendously out of character for Batman. The most notable ones occur during fight sequences in the first two issues. In the aforementioned diner scene, Batman says: “Hey. All of you in this diner. Look at me. Not them. Look at my face. No one is dying today.” He then winks at them (shown right). On the next page, he makes a crack about the life cycle of a moth before stabbing Killer Moth through the hand.

Later, during he train sequence in issue #2, Batman says to Killer Croc: “Hey Waylon. Appaloosa called…they want their fool back.”

Let’s not kid ourselves. Batman is a silly character. Silly, and versatile enough to be both dark and brooding, yet somehow funny in the same issue. That being said, lines like this are just bad. And they’re so out of character for the Dark Knight that they leave a bad taste in your mouth for the rest of the story. As good as Snyder is, and as fun as these action sequences are otherwise, this is a Batman story, not a Lethal Weapon movie.

As our story continues, we see that even Batman isn’t immune to Two-Face’s little secrets scheme, as Jim Gordon and the GCPD are about to walk into the Batcave. Snyder somewhat blurs the lines as far as what Gordon does or doesn’t know about Bruce Wayne and Batman. In the middle of issue #5, as the cops are about to break into the cave, Gordon pulls Alfred aside. He tells him to “I don’t know what’s true, you hear me? I never have. … Call him and get him to do whatever he has to do to turn this back. You tell him he has one chance.”

This is somewhat reminiscent of what we got toward the end of “No Man’s Land” almost 20 years ago. Only in that story, we had a little hint of doubt that maybe Gordon did know the truth. In this story, it’s the reverse. We’re literally standing in Wayne Manor as everything is about to be revealed, and we get a hint that maybe Gordon doesn’t know. Frankly, that’s not nearly as effective as what happened in “No Man’s Land.” Here, it’s fairly obvious that Gordon knows. And if he doesn’t, then he’s a complete moron.

Snyder did something similar with the Joker back in “Zero Year.” He and Greg Capullo made it pretty clear that the Red Hood One character was the guy that becomes the Joker. But then he threw in a twist that cast doubt over the whole thing. With both the Joker and Jim Gordon, it’s pretty obvious what Snyder wants to do. But for some reason, he doesn’t fully pull the trigger on it.

This first volume of All-Star Batman also collects “The Cursed Wheel,” which is comprised of back-up stories from the first four issues by Snyder, penciller/inker Declan Shalvey, and colorist Jordie Bellaire. The story is fine for the most part. It centers around Batman training Duke Thomas to be…whatever he’s going to be. There’s an argument to be made that Shalvey’s art is actually superior to Romita’s. It’s crisp, it’s clean, and it’s beautifully complimented by Bellaire.

Snyder sprinkles a little Joker dust on things by showing us Duke’s parents, who’ve been driven insane and in effect “Jokerized” after the events of “Endgame.” In issue #4, Duke poses the theory that the Joker is not pure evil. He simply attacks what he loves, and his serum prompts it’s victims to do the same. The idea isn’t explored much, but it’s a tremendous character insight.

On the flip side, you have the concept of the Cursed Wheel. It’s meant to be a condensed version of all the training Bruce did to become Batman. Each portion/color represents a different part of the human psyche. This could have been really interesting. But they got a little too cute with it. What spoiled it for me was this…

“Look at the colors. You see hints of them in the colors of your allies. Dick leans blue. Damian, green. Barbara, purple. It’s a secret history that unites them, connects them and differentiates them.”

So the colors that Nightwing, Batgirl, Robin, and other characters wear isn’t a simple color choice? Rather, it has some kind of deep-rooted psychological attachment to this wheel? So what about when Nightwing was wearing red? Or when Batgirl’s costume wasn’t purple? Hell, what about the other colors Robin wears? Furthermore, what traits to these different colors represent, exactly? Simply put, I don’t get it. The idea isn’t fleshed out enough, and the color coding is a little too silly for me. Sometimes a blue shirt is just a blue shirt.

The one word I would use to describe My Own Worst Enemy is “consistent.” Like Snyder’s work on Batman, we’ve got some really big and creative ideas here. It’s just that the bad ideas tend to flop as spectacularly as the good ones soar.

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A Batman: I Am Gotham Review – What Did You Expect?

Batman, Vol. 1: I Am Gotham, coverTITLE: Batman, Vol. 1: I Am Gotham
AUTHOR: Tom King
PENCILLER: David Finch, Ivan Reis
COLLECTS: Batman #16
FORMAT: Paperback
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $16.99
RELEASE DATE:
January 11, 2017

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The announcement of Tom King taking over Batman was a big deal. At the time his phenomenal run on The Vision was still in progress, and the critics (myself included) were buzzing about him. In addition, he’d already worked on some of the Gotham City characters via his time on Grayson. So hopes were high for him. But coming off the commercially, and often critically acclaimed run that Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo had just completed, expectations may have been even higher.

What King, David Finch, and this new Batman team give us is fine. At times it’s even good. But the waters are muddier than we’ve seen from previous Batman runs. We spend a little too much time hyping a future story and there’s a connection to the Suicide Squad that often feels forced. But if you’re patient, there’s some good character work in here, with both established characters and the ones we’re meeting for the first time.

I Am Gotham introduces us to the super-powered brother-sister duo of Gotham and Gotham Girl. Inspired by Batman, they make their debut saving the Dark Knight from a plane crash. Batman takes them under his wing, but soon learns they have demons that will result in blood being shed in Gotham City. All the while, sinister plans are in motion to spill even more blood…

Batman #2, Gotham, Gotham Girl, David FinchLike many of Batman’s supporting characters, allies and enemies alike, Gotham and Gotham Girl are almost skewed versions of Batman himself. After young Hank Clover and his parents are saved from a mugging in Crime Ally by Batman, he and his sister Claire become obsessed with bettering themselves so that they can help others. We later learn they’re connected to Amanda Waller, and she’s using the Hugo Strange and Psycho-Pirate to keep them under control. That connection works out fine, but it’s ultimately unnecessary. All we need is Psycho-Pirate, Hugo Strange, and Strange’s accomplice, who we learn about in the closing pages. So why have Waller in there at all? It’s obvious, isn’t it…?

Suicide Squad is a big priority at DC right now, and rightfully so. Case in point, the upcoming Justice League vs. Suicide Squad crossover. These issues started coming out in August, the same month the movie was released. So Waller was obviously dropped in here for that reason. It’s fine, but disappointing when you look at it from that angle. What’s more, DC is still pushing Suicide Squad via Batman, with the Dark Knight forming his own version of the team. The story is even called “I Am Suicide.” We get it, guys. We get it.

The story also starts hyping “Night of the Monster Men” far too early for my taste. That arc doesn’t start until issue #7. This book starts hyping it in issue #2. I’m all for long form storytelling. But not at the expense of your current story. It feels more like padding than anything else.

One of the themes I Am Gotham touches on is the nature of Gotham City, almost personifying it as a character in the story. What it is, what it does to people, etc. Snyder and Capullo also did that, with more success than King and Finch have here. But in all fairness, they had 50 issues. This team has six. So it pales in comparison. King also doesn’t say much of substance about the city. At least he hasn’t thus far in his Batman run. In the pages of I Am Gotham, the theme essentially goes no where.

Batman #1, 2016, David Finch, upside downI’ve been a critic of David Finch’s for awhile now, and I make no apologies for that. I think all his renderings of women look the same, and absolutely everything he does has that dark and gritty feel to it, even when dark and gritty isn’t what the story calls for. As such, he’s been put on a number of books in which his work often feels terribly mismatched. Wonder Woman and Justice League of America come to mind.

But that’s not to say Finch doesn’t have his place, and it’s on stories like this. The Gotham City he brings us, along with inkers Sandra Hope, Matt Banning, Scott Hanna, and colorist Jordie Bellaire is fittingly dark, illuminated by the glow of city lights and flames. Characters like Batman, Jim Gordon, and even Alfred, have a fittingly grizzled texture to them. He even pulls off a nice visual gag, as we get to see Alfred don the Batsuit.

I was justifiably concerned about how Finch would draw Gotham Girl. She’s basically a skinny blonde in a tennis skirt, after all. Thankfully, during the second half of the story when the masks comes off, Finch is much better at drawing Claire. Once we can see her eyes, Finch gives her a very nice vulnerability and we start to care about her.

Things get more expressive in issue #6 when Ivan Reis tags in on pencils. The issue largely focuses on Claire, and how she’s coping with the events of issue #5. It’s about how you’d expect, especially considering what she’s gone through with Psycho-Pirate. But facially, Reis conveys her emotional highs and lows very nicely. There’s a particularly great image of her toward the end of the issue, as she’s tucked into Batman’s chest. Guest colorist Marcelo Maiolo offers some nice consistency with Bellaire’s work, while still making the issue his own. As such, things are a little brighter. But we still see shades of Bellaire’s color palette. Most notably in the sky, and some of the city lights.

Batman #6, Ivan Reis, Gotham GirlOn its own, I Am Gotham is an okay read. But it’s clearly a first chapter. Based on subsequent issues of Batman, it’s tough to tell where the story is going. Considering the role she played in this book, one might think Gotham Girl would be center stage going forward. That’s not necessarily the case. She’s in “Night of the Monster Men.” But the story isn’t about her, per se. She serves as Batman’s motivation for the current “I Am Suicide” story, but that’s the only role she plays. Solicitations for upcoming issues have a lot of talk about Bane and Catwoman. Granted, the current issues with Mikel Janin are better than what we got here. But I get the sense that King is going for a natural progression, where the events of one story naturally flow into the next. Instead, this all feels somewhat disjointed. That’s disappointing. Thus far, King’s Batman run has been interesting. But coming off the hype and momentum that Snyder and Capullo’s run had, and especially when you consider what a masterpiece King’s run on The Vision was, this feels like a step down.

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A Batman/TMNT Adventures #1 Review – These Kids Today…

Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1, coverTITLE: Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #1
AUTHOR: Matthew K. Manning
PENCILLER: Jon Sommariva. Cover by Hilary Barta.
PUBLISHERS: DC Comics, IDW Publishing
PRICE: 
$3.99
RELEASED: $3.99

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I can understand why people liked the first Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. It was the first time the Dark Knight and the boys in green met in any medium. While it had its flaws, for some of us, it was a big moment in fanboy culture.

But this? This is more like it. While we have to repeat numerous story points, Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #1 is so much more fun than its predecessor. While the first story seemed to be aimed at older fans, this one is squarely directed at a younger audience. In this case, that makes for a more entertaining sandbox for these characters to play in.

As is often the case with these crossover stories, there’s a dimensional portal involved. After a recent breakout at Arkham Asylum, members of Batman’s rogues gallery are finding their way into the TMNT world. Case in point: The Turtles and April run into Clayface in the New York City sewers. And as we see by issue’s end, someone much worse is also there. But Batman isn’t fair behind, and the Turtles will gain a new and unexpected ally in the Dark Knight.

batman-tmnt-adventures-1-alfredQuestion: Do kids today watch Batman: The Animated Series? Those of us who grew up with it understand what a milestone it is. But for younger fans, is there any significance to seeing this version of Batman teamed up with this version of the Turtles? Or is it just a matter of this being a simpler version of the character that anyone can understand? Either way, it’s great to see these characters back on the page. They’re more cartoonish and exaggerated than they were on screen. But It matches the tone set by the Turtles.

Matthew K. Manning is no stranger to either Batman or the Turtles, having worked on the comic book spinoffs for The BatmanBeware the BatmanJustice League, and the current TMNT cartoon. Oddly enough, he runs into a similar problem James Tynion IV did with the first issue of the other series. The Turtles come out sounding and feeling alright. But he has trouble capturing the Alfred so distinctly carved out by Efram Zimbalist Jr. He sounds too American, and is lays on too much sarcasm. Granted, he’s in the issue for all of one page. A minor offense to say the least.

Clayface was the perfect villain to crossover against the Turtles. He has the dark and twisted edge of a Batman villain, but also the ugly monster element that a lot of TMNT villains have. You can easily picture him alongside some of the weird creatures of Dimension X. His scene with the Turtles is a lot of fun, particularly when he briefly masquerades as Michelangelo (shown below).

Batman/TMNT Adventures #1, ClayfaceThe glory for that scene goes to penciller Jon Sommariva, inker Sean Parsons, and a colorist with the fitting name of Leonardo Ito. Look at the close-up of Mike on the page at right, with the one telltale drip coming off his face. We get that great subtlety, and in the next panel he goes full on monster. You also have that nice glowing green color. It’s very TMNT.

After reading the freshmen issue of the first Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, I opted to wait for the collection. That’s not a bad thing, per se. I just didn’t feel the need to fork money down for it month after month. I’m happy to say that’s not the case here. There’s something about this story, or at least this first issue, that speaks to my inner child. I suppose that’s because, as a kid, I would have crawled through mutagen to read a story like this. Damn kids today. They don’t know how good they’ve got it… *mutters*

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An All-Star Batman #2 Review – The Jerk Store Called…

All-Star Batman #2, 2016, John Romita Jr.TITLE: All-Star Batman #2
AUTHOR: Scott Snyder
PENCILLERS: John Romita Jr., Declan Shalvey
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: September 14, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I haven’t been as in love with All-Star Batman as some reviewers are. But credit where credit is due: This is good stuff.

 Harvey Dent says he can get rid of his alter-ego Two-Face if Batman can get him to a mysterious house 500 miles away from Gotham. Two-Face counters by putting a price on the Dark Knight’s head. Ergo, Batman’s enemies are coming out of the woodwork to kill and collect. But fittingly, Two-Face’s plan is double-headed. Jim Gordon and the GCPD are literally about to walk into the Batcave!

One of Snyder and Romita’s priorities with this book is to prominently feature Batman’s rogues gallery. Not just the A-listers, either. In this issue alone we get appearances from King Shark, Amygdala, Cheshire, Great White, and KGBeast (referred to as “the Beast”). As a Batman geek, one of the thrilling elements about All-Star is never knowing who will pop out from around the next corner. It could be anyone from Mr. Freeze to Kite-Man.

Snyder also does a lot of justice to Two-Face, diving deeper into the concept of duality than I expected. Not just the traditional Harvey Dent vs. Two-Face stuff, but the notion that everyone has a dark side. Everyone is secretly as twisted as he is, and by holding secrets over people’s heads, he’s going to show you how. We also get a nice scene between Alfred and Duke Thomas that spells out some of the rules for how Two-Face’s brain works. The two sides can keep secrets from one another, but also influence each other. That’s good information to have as we go forward.

All-Star Batman #2, John Romita Jr., the jerk store calledWhat I continue to dislike about Snyder’s writing in this book is the sarcastic dialogue he gives Batman during battle sequences. This book kicks off with an awesome fight against Killer Croc, King Shark, and Amygdala on top of a moving train, with Two-Face looking on for good measure. But it’s promptly spoiled with the line: “Hey Waylon. Appaloosa called…they want their fool back.”

Hey Batman. The jerk store called…

What makes that sequence all the more frustrating is that John Romita Jr., Danny Miki, and Dean White absolutely nail it. It’s got a great energy, accentuated beautifully by the motion work and the gorgeous colors in the background. This is also the best Killer Croc has looked in awhile. For my money that’s a high compliment, as this book came out the same week as one of Jim Lee’s Suicide Squad issues. Romita’s take on the Penguin is also very reminiscent of Danny DeVito’s look in Batman Returns, which isn’t something we see very often.

I also adore the panels of Batman and Two-Face fighting in the water (shown below), if for nothing else because of the water itself. The way it’s colored, the way it moves, the way it drips off the characters. It’s almost cloud-like.

We’re also introduced to the notion that many suspect Bruce Wayne is Batman, but no one can prove it. This would be interesting as a throwaway line. But they’re obviously following up on it, what with Jim Gordon and the GCPD breaking into the Batcave…

All-Star Batman #2, John Romita Jr., Batman, Two-FaceKGBeast gets put over like a million bucks in this issue. He’s put on arguably the same level as a Deathstroke or Deadshot, and even has a decapitated Talon from the Court of Owls as a trophy. He’s treated with a reverence he’s rarely, if ever, gotten.

I’m still sour this “color wheel” idea Snyder is using in the back-up feature, though in all fairness there’s still much we don’t know about it. For now, we’ve got a mostly quiet scene between Batman and Duke as they track down Zsasz. Declan Shalvey’s work remains delightfully clean. His opening page is a striking mosaic of Duke’s family memories, which transitions into a scene between he and his mother. We’re not given any further insight into what exactly Batman has in mind for Duke. But things are unfolding nicely. We have yet to see a sarcastic quip from the Dark Knight in this story, so it almost has the advantage over what Snyder is doing with Romita.

There’s also a delightfully subtle detail to the one of Zsasz’s word balloons. It gets little gray scratches behind the letters to signify the various marks he puts in his own skin.

All-Star Batman is mostly quality work thus far, which is consistent with what Snyder has done with Batman previously. But as I see it, Snyder has a tendency to get in his own way, and take his own stories down a notch. Whether it’s with dialogue that’s out of character, big awful Batman robots, or something else entirely. It’s like he just can’t resist.

Boy, I wish he could resist…

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A Batman #52 Review – Ohhhh, They’re Being Cute…

Batman #52, 2016, Greg CapulloTITLE: Batman #52
AUTHOR: James Tynion IV
PENCILLER: Riley Rossmo. Cover by Greg Capullo.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: May 11, 2016

***Miss last issue? Check out issue #51!***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This is the last issue of this volume of Batman. Because, you know, it’s the New 52. And this is issue #52. Oh, and Batman makes a list, and the important item is number 52.

I’m almost glad all these New 52 books are relaunching. They’re getting a little too cute with their number games…

A short time after the Waynes are murdered, Leslie Thompkins asks young Bruce to compile a list of things he needs to do to move on with his life. It’s not an easy list to compile, however. Years later, the things Bruce wrote down resurface in a manner that requires the attention of Batman. But what exactly is on that list?

A few quick words on James Tynion IV: His contributions to this Batman run should never be looked over. Scott Snyder may have been in the driver’s seat, but Tynion was a hell of a co-pilot with his back-ups on a lot of those issues. One that immediately comes to mind is issue #15, in which he and Jock put The Riddler over really well (and this was pre-Zero Year). Another amazing little story was “The Pit” with Rafael Albuquerque from issue #23. There are moments in this Batman series where I wondered Tynion actually understood Batman better than Snyder did. So if Snyder isn’t going to be the one to close this chapter of Batman’s career, Tynion damn sure deserves it.

Batman #52, Riley Rossmo, Leslie Thompkins, weird hairThat being said, Riley Rossmo’s art is awkward at times. He’s by no means a bad artist. He draws a pretty good Alfred. But there are panels where Batman’s eyes get a little too big and buggy for my taste. At different points he also looks a little too stringy, particularly on the final page. Part of that is Rossmo’s style, which is fair enough. But c’mon, this is Batman we’re talking about.

Also, what exactly is up with Leslie’s hair (shown left)? Is that supposed to be a retro hairdo? It’s more distracting than anything else. Why does Leslie have a cat sleeping on her head?

On the plus side, Rossmo draws what seems to be a nice little tribute to Batman: The Animated Series in this issue (shown below). He incorporates it into the story nicely. Artistically, it’s one of the highlights of the book.

The idea of Bruce creating a list like this is interesting. We don’t get to see a lot of it, which is fine. It’s probably best left to the imagination. We do see a few entries however…

  • #1. Disappear.
  • #7. Feel nothing.
  • #21. Let go of everything.
  • #33. Make them feel what I feel.
  • #45. Don’t let anybody else leave me.

Batman #52, lightning bolt, Riley RossmoWhat’s great about these sentiments is that while these feel like things a child might have written, in different ways you can apply them to both Batman and young Bruce Wayne. Tynion, Rossmo, and the team do a lovely job of illustrating that. They also hit us with a really good tearjerker in the second half of the issue when Alfred makes an addition to Bruce’s list.

Batman #52 is a serviceable conclusion to this volume of The Dark Knight’s adventures. Thankfully, Tynion returns to Batman’s world next month in Detective Comics #894. I’m pleased to see him getting the top billing on a Bat-book. He’s earned his stripes in Gotham City. While this may not be his best work, he’s got a chance to make some great comics going forward. That’s good news for both Tynion and Batman.

Image 1 from gamespot.com. Image 2 from comicvine.com.

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A Batman #51 Review – A Quiet Conclusion

Batman #51, 2016TITLE: Batman #51
AUTHOR: Scott Snyder
PENCILLER: Greg Capullo
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEAED: April 27, 2016

***Need to catch up? Check out issues #48, #49, and #50.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

While I haven’t been shy in my criticisms of the Scott Snyder/Greg Capullo Batman run, I’ve always given them credit for thinking big. So it’s interesting that they took a quieter approach for their final issue. On the plus side, no giant robots!

When a mass blackout hits Gotham City, the Caped Crusader is tasked with not only keeping order, but finding out who it is that’s left his city in darkness. His quest will take him across the city, including Arkham Asylum, and the doorstep of the Court of Owls. But in the end, the circumstances aren’t at all what he expected.

Snyder opened Batman #1 with talk of a column in the Gotham Gazette called “Gotham is…” Readers are asked to complete that sentence, and various different answers come in. Snyder bookends this run by titling this issue “Gotham Is.” We even meet the column’s author. This approach is very fitting, as Snyder has been praised for making Gotham City itself a character in his work. This was true even in his run on Detective Comics. In a sense, Snyder’s best character work on this series has been with the city itself. He’s not the only modern Batman writer to do so, but no one has done it better than he has.

Batman #51, two-page spread, Greg Capullo

Snyder and Capullo have done a lot of justice to the Alfred character. He was fantastic in issue #49 (though Yanick Paquette was the artist on that one) because of the sheer raw emotion he showed. But in this issue we see the return of snarky, jokey Alfred. I think most would agree Batman shouldn’t be a jokey character, per se. But he’s known Alfred his whole life, so it makes sense that he’d be able to show his faithful butler/surrogate father another side of him. In this issue they joke a bit about Bruce’s “justice flavored” nutrient beverage, as well as the origin of Alfred’s new right hand. Throw in that awesome shot of the Batcave by Capullo, and you’ve got a hell of a kick off to your final issue.

Much like Batman’s connected contacts from issue #1 (which I hated), we get another new piece of technology in this issue: A holographic camouflage device for the Batmobile. This allows the car to patrol the streets looking like a civilian vehicle. I buy this a hell of a lot more than the damn contacts, and it makes a hell of a lot of sense for the Batmobile to have something like that. So I’m game.

In issue #1, we saw a big breakout inside Arkham Asylum that was ultimately foiled by Batman. Capullo drew a two-page spread of a group of Gotham rogues facing off against The Dark Knight. In this issue, the power outage causes a similar incident, and we get a similar two-page spread. The new one is superior if for no other reason than he fixed the damn Riddler. In 2011, Capullo drew a ridiculous Riddler with question marks shaved into his head. This new one looks like the Zero Year version, and looks suitably reluctant to fight Batman (see thumbnails below).

Batman #1, 2011, villains
Batman #51, villainsWe also get a quick appearance from The Joker in this issue. That was a nice nod to one of the better issues in the Snyder/Capullo run, as well as a reminder that he will be back sooner or later…

It was very fitting to see an appearance by the Court of Owls in this issue. Given time, and what other writers end up doing with them, I’d wager the Court of Owls will turn out to be a major part of Snyder and Capullo’s legacy on Batman and his world. Between the backstory, the look, and the creep factor, the Court of Owls have the potential to stand the test of time and be part of the DC Universe for years to come.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I thought the look of Flappy Face Joker was stupid, I hated most of Zero Hour, and I can’t stand this team’s weird fixation on giant robots. But Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, and everyone who worked on this Batman run were part of something special. Not perfect, but special in its own way. This team carved out its own era on one of the longest-running comic books in the history of the medium. And they sold a lot of books in the process. That’s something they can be proud of and take with them for the rest of their lives. Comic book fans are in debt to them for taking such good care of one of our greatest heroes.

Image 1 from comicvine.com. Image 2 from ifanboy.com. Image 3 from weirdsciencedccomics.com. 

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