Weekly Comic 100s: Darth Vader, Batman, X-Men/Fantastic Four, 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

TITLE: Darth Vader #1
AUTHOR: Greg Pak
ARTISTS: Raffaele Ienco, Neeraj Menon (Colorist), Joe Caramagna (Letterer). Variant cover by Chris Sprouse.
RELEASED: February 5, 2020

After the events of Empire, Darth Vader starts investigating Luke’s birth/origins. He journeys back to Tatooine (again). He then goes to Padme’s old apartment on Coruscant, which remains more or less preserved after 20 years. As if it’s a crime scene or something. Based on the ending, I assume we’ll learn more next issue.

I understand it from a storytelling perspective. But in-universe, it’s always a little too convenient that these landmark places all essentially look the same no matter when we see them. That Lars Homestead will still be standing 30 years later

TITLE: Batman #88
AUTHOR:
James Tynion IV
ARTISTS: Guillem March, Tomeu Morey (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by Tony Daniel.
RELEASED: February 5, 2020

I wasn’t very nice to Guillem March last time. In fact, I’m rarely depict his work positively. But to his credit, he won me over with this issue. At least a little bit. His rendering of Catwoman in a graveyard on a rainy night is damn near beautiful. The scene with Batman, Penguin, Deathstroke, and the others is also very strong.

At more than one point, it seemed to me like this issue was laying the groundwork for the long-awaited Three Jokers book. Remember, we’re building toward a story in the pages of Batman called “Joker War.”

TITLE: X-Men/Fantastic Four #1 (of 4)
AUTHOR: Chip Zdarsky
ARTISTS: Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson (Inker), Dexter Vines (Inking Assistant), Karl Story (Inking Assistant), Laura Martin (Colorist), Joe Caramagna (Letterer)
RELEASED: February 5, 2020

I’m terrified of X-Men comics. Specifically, the decades worth of continuity and characters. But to this book’s credit, it’s fairly accessible.

Franklin Richards, the mutant teenage son of Reed Richards and Sue Storm, is summoned by Charles Xavier to live with Earth’s mutants on the island nation of Krakoa. This doesn’t sit well with Reed. Naturally, conflict and teen angst ensue.

I’ve been looking for a bridge back into the Marvel Universe. X-Men/Fantastic Four #1 might be it, as it does a nice job setting up both teams, and giving us a compelling main character in Franklin.

TITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #3
AUTHOR: Ryan Parrott
ARTISTS: Simone di Meo, Alessio Zonno, Walter Baiamonte (Colorist), Igor Monti (Color Assistant), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Cover by Dan Mora.
RELEASED: February 5, 2020

We get a fight between Rita and Shredder in this issue. It’s a relatively lengthy battle. And you know what? I’m just going to come out and say it: I wanted this to be one of those fights where the guy and girl hook up at the end. You know how it goes. The passion overcomes them, etc. These two have a lot in common, after all.

What that says about me and these characters from my childhood, I’ll let you decide.

Oh my God. What if Shredder, not Zedd, was actually Thrax‘s father?!?!? Mind blown!!!

TITLE: Young Justice #13
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis, David Walker
ARTISTS: Michael Avon Oeming, Mike Grell, John Timms, Gabe Eltaeb (Colorist), Wes Abbott (Letterer)
RELEASED: February 5, 2020

Well hey there, Mike Grell! It’s been too long! What’s more, Grell gets to once again draw a character he created in Warlord. Warlord and Superboy actually have a pretty nice dynamic in this issue. The experienced elder statesman offering calm words of wisdom to an upset Superboy.

For the moment at least, the Young Justice cast has expanded greatly. If these additional characters stick around, it’s a lot to balance. But it’s still damn good to see a couple of them.

TITLE: Lois Lane #8
AUTHOR: Greg Rucka
ARTISTS: Mike Perkins, Gabe Eltaeb (Colorist), Simon Bowland (Letterer)
RELEASED: February 5, 2020

As much as I’m enjoying having Greg Rucka back at DC, I’m wondering if this needed to be a 12-issue maxi-series. This entire issue felt mostly like filler.

For instance, there’s a scene in this issue where Superman shows up after an attempt on Lois’ life. We take four pages to see husband and wife re-united, and then to see the attention the Man of Steel gets from the local police.

Am I missing something? Why are we seeing this?

On the upside, the assassin that comes after Lois has a pretty cool look.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

Weekly Comic 100s: Shazam! #10, Batman/Superman #10, 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

The deadline for yesterday’s “Weekly Comic 100s” kinda snuck up on me. So consider this part two. But there’s plenty of first rate talent to be found. Geoff Johns, David Marquez, Peter Tomasi, Dale Eaglesham…

TITLE: Shazam! #10
AUTHOR: Geoff Johns
ARTISTS: Dale Eaglesham, Scott Kolins, Michael Atiyeh (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer)
RELEASED:
January 22, 2020

The best page scene in this book? Tawky Tawny making dinner while Billy’s adoptive parents look on in apprehension. Change my mind.

We get a surprise return in this issue. It feels way out of left field. But let’s see how it plays out. Seeing this character mix it up with the Shazam family might be really compelling.

Dale Eaglesham and Scott Kolins are still splitting the art duties. I’m a Scott Kolins fan, but Eagleham’s style was made for a book like this. The more pages we get from him, the better.

TITLE: Batman/Superman #6
AUTHOR:
Joshua Williamson
ARTISTS: David Marquez, Alejandro Sanchez (Colorist), John J. Hill (Letterer)
RELEASED: January 22, 2020

It feels like they’re trying to channel the tension, paranoia, and mistrust that was hanging over DC titles all those years ago during the build-up to Infinite Crisis. This issue actually references The O.M.A.C. Project by name. Trouble is, DC had years worth of stories to lay the foundation for all that hostility. This series has only had six issues. So it feels like Williamson is referencing something that’s barely there at all.

On the upside, the next story could be really good. We’ve got two villains meeting for (I assume…?) the first time.

TITLE: I Can Sell You A Body #2 (of 4)
AUTHOR: Ryan Ferrier
ARTISTS: George Kambadais, Ferrier (Letterer)
RELEASED: January 22, 2020

They lay the comedy on thicker this month. For instance, we open with a scene in Vatican City. A priest actually says, “Feh. The Jesus card. That old chestnut. Childish.”

Someone also says, “Enough with the ghost dicks!”

This issue got me invested in Henrietta, Denny’s love interest. She’s a sweet lady who, as we learn on the closing page, is willing to stick her neck out for people she cares about. In this case, that trait may not pay off in either the short term or the long term.

TITLE: Detective Comics #1019
AUTHOR: Peter Tomasi
ARTISTS: Scott Godlewski, David Baron (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer). Cover by Rafa Sandoval, Jordi Tarragona, and Baron.
RELEASED: January 22, 2020

This issue and last issue both felt like filler. Which you need sometimes. I just wasn’t hooked by the whole norse mythology thing. On the upside, the dialogue problem from last issue was fixed.

As I mentioned with Batman, they’re making sure Alfred’s death is felt heavily in the Bat-books. It seems like for now Lucius Fox has stepped up and become the “man in the chair.” Fair enough. There’s potential for character work there as Bruce and Lucius come to see each other in new ways.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

A Batman, Vol. 8: Cold Days Review – Bruce Wayne Against Batman?

TITLE: Batman, Vol. 8: Cold Days
AUTHOR: Tom King
ARTISTS:
Lee Weeks, Matt Wagner, Tony Daniel, Mark Buckingham, Andrew Pepoy, Danny Miki (Inker)
COLORISTS: Elizabeth Breitweiser, Tomeu Morey
LETTERER:
Clayton Cowles
COLLECTS:
Batman #5157
PUBLISHER:
DC Comics
PRICE:
$16.99
RELEASED:
December 19, 2018

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

A while back, I did a “Panels of Awesomeness” on a couple of the pages in Cold Days. It’s the scene in Batman #51 when Bruce Wayne snaps and rips a urinal out of the wall (shown below). People may criticize Tom King’s writing on this series, but I believe he has the distinction of being the only writer to have Batman do that.

But you can’t blame the guy, can you? I mean, if your wedding had gone that way

1. One Angry Man
As if things weren’t already crappy for him, Bruce Wayne gets jury duty in the titular three-issue story that kicks off Cold Days. Mr. Freeze stands trial for the murder of three women. On paper, it’s an open-and-shut case. Not only did Freeze confess to the murders, but Batman examined the forensic evidence, discovering a detail the police missed. One juror, however, believes Freeze is innocent: Bruce Wayne. Why? Because as Batman, he beat Freeze to a pulp, unintentionally forcing a confession.

This Batman series may have a tendency to go off the rails. But credit where credit is due: I love this story. In fact, it’s the high point of Tom King’s entire run. It cuts right to the core of who Bruce Wayne is, as he’s forced to do something he’s not accustomed to: Confronting a mistake, and making good on it. “Cold Days” even examines the notion that Batman is infallible, at least in the eyes of the public. But as we see all too clearly, he’s not infallible. He’s just a man. A man in a tremendous amount of pain.

The last time we saw Lee Weeks on this book was in Batman Annual #2, illustrating a story set early in Batman’s career. What he turns in here, alongside Elizabeth Breitweiser and Clayton Cowles, is every bit as good, if not better. One of the qualities that makes Weeks’ work so special is that he feels very much at home on a more “grounded” story like this one, without any super-powered exploits. And yet, he can also thrive working on a character like Superman.

King uses “Cold Days” to touch on a subject we rarely touch on with the Dark Knight: religion. He talks about how his father was Christian, and wanted Bruce to find spirituality as well. As one might imagine, that didn’t happen. What we learn is that Batman more or less became Bruce’s religion. And in the eyes of many, Batman has become the equivalent of a deity. It’s a really cool sequence, and I credit King for having the guts to go there.

We also get a fantastic page in issue #51. While Bruce is serving on the jury, Dick Grayson is filling in as Batman. Early on, we get a page on the roof of police headquarters where he’s talking to Commissioner Gordon. The following dialogue ensues…

Gordon: “You’re not him. You’re that other him.”
Batman: “What’s the problem, Commissioner? How can I help?”
Gordon: “Is he alright?”
Batman: *pauses* “No.”

I love that Gordon isn’t written as an idiot, and how this harkens back to pieces of the Knightfall and No Man’s Land stories from the ’90s. Frankly, I wouldn’t have a problem if he called him out as Nightwing.

2. The Dynamic Duo
In the last 20 years or so, writers have made Bruce and Dick a little too friendly for my taste. Until recently, there were times when Dick was acting more like Robin than Damian, the actual Robin. I always liked the idea that when Dick struck out on his own, he developed his own methods and philosophies that at times put him at odds with Batman. He wouldn’t be the estranged son. That role should be saved that role for Jason Todd. I’d simply have Dick be his own man. But when the chips were down, he’d be there if Bruce truly needed him.

That’s precisely the scenario we have in Batman #54. As Bruce tries to power his way through his grief over Selina, Dick simply hangs out. A constant source of levity. And indeed, there’s a fantastic moment where Batman actually does break, and Dick is there for him. This is all intercut with various moments from Dick’s early days at Wayne Manor. It’s one of King’s better written Batman issues.

Our guest artist for issue #54 is none other than the amazing Matt Wagner. I hadn’t realized just how much I missed him working on Batman. What’s so special about Wagner is that he can capture whatever tone you want, with whatever character you want, while still injecting a sense of fun into his art. It’s never not fun to look at a Matt Wagner book.

3. The Beast Unleashed
As much as I disliked Scott Snyder’s Zero Year story, I loved the way it revitalized the Riddler. King, to his credit, continued that revitalization during his run. But one can also argue he did a little revitalizing himself. With, of all characters, KGBeast.

KGBeast, real name Anatoli Knyazev, first appeared in the late ’80s as yet another to stake claim to the DCU’s “world’s deadliest assassin” title. (Think Deathstroke, Deadshot, Lady Shiva, etc.) His most prominent character moment came when he cut off his own arm to allude capture by Batman. But since then, he’s been mostly relegated to what I’ll call the villains ensemble, i.e. somebody to put in a scene where Batman has to fight a bunch of bad guys. Heck, Snyder did it recently in All-Star Batman.

But in Batman #55, the Beast does the unthinkable. As Batman and Nightwing are continuing their father/son bonding of sorts, he uses a sniper rifle to put a bullet in Nightwing’s head. With Dick alive, yet devastatingly wounded, Batman does the only thing he can do: go Beast hunting.

In re-reading this “Beast of Burden” story in trade format, I picked up on something I missed in the single issues: the father/son theme. After carrying out the hit on Nightwing, Knyazev tracks down his father to a remote cabin in “far east” Russia. It may as well be the planet Hoth, as it’s seemingly just miles upon miles of snow, some trees, and that one cabin. We learn that like his son, Vasily Knyazev was once a killer for the KGB, and trained Anatoli to be the same. Seeing the two interact after what has clearly been a long time apart, it’s obvious Vasily was a callous and heartless excuse for a father. And yet, he loves his son in his own unique way…

But Bruce can be cold and callous too. He’s about as dark and withdrawn in these pages as he’s ever been. But he’s not heartless. He showed a great deal of compassion for Dick, and cared for him in the best way he knew how. I suspect that’s why we got the flashback scenes in the Matt Wagner issue. To illustrate the differences between these father/son duos. That makes for a really cool story.

Thankfully, unlike Deathstroke vs. Deadshot in The War of Jokes and Riddles, in this book we actually see the damn fight between Batman and KGBeast blow by blow. It’s easy to follow and project yourself into. It ends with Batman pulling off a maneuver I’m not sure we’ve seen from him before. It’s shockingly merciless, as is the book’s ending.

Tony Daniel and Tomeu Morey set the mood perfectly. I’m reluctant to use The Empire Strikes Back as an example again, but the art evokes the same sort of grim, foreboding mood we see in the opening moments of the film. I could almost hear the John Williams score…

Intercut amongst the fight sequences is a folktale Vasily would read to the future KGBeast when he was a boy. Mark Buckingham and Andrew Pepoy tag in for pages that are fittingly drawn like a storybook for a young child. Though it’s certainly more violent and bloody than any book you’ll pick up off shelves today. Or for that matter, any era. There’s a thematic connection of course, and it’s certainly unique to see these cartoony animals drawn alongside this brutal fight.

The only major negative I can find in “Beasts of Burden,” is that it serves as the inciting incident for the “Ric Grayson” stuff that began in Nightwing #50. I haven’t purchased a Nightwing comic since, as that story just doesn’t interest me. But that’s got nothing to do with Tom King or this series, so I can’t hold it against this book.

4. Bright Spot for the Dark Knight
Cold Days is indeed the high point of Tom King’s Batman run. A bright spot in an often bizarre series of issues. The “Cold Days” story is outstanding on its own. But the issues with Nightwing and KGBeast were much better than I remembered. The art is consistently gorgeous. Lee Weeks stole the show for yours truly. Though I’ve certainly got a soft spot for Matt Wagner.

I take no joy in saying much of Tom King’s Batman run is skippable. I do, however, take joy in telling you Cold Days is a must-read for fans of both Batman and Nightwing. Outstanding character work mixed with great action. In the end, you really can’t ask for much more.

For more of Tom King’s run on Batman, check out I Am Gotham, I Am Suicide, I Am Bane, Batman/The Flash: The Button, The War of Jokes and Riddles, The Rules of Engagement, Bride or Burglar?, and The Wedding.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

Weekly Comic 100s: Kylo Ren, Doomsday Clock, Batman Finale

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Yeesh. Talk about a loaded week. Big finales, big debuts, and some Star Wars backstory we’ve been waiting years for. And of course, with big issues, come big upticks in pricing. Mostly at DC. They actually had the gall to charge $4.99 for the Tom King Batman finale. Oye.

But next week is largely a throwaway week. (Unless you’re Marvel. Kudos to them.) So I’ll be able to play a little catch up. So next week’s batch will include Family Tree #2, Shazam #9, Star Wars: Empire Ascendant, Batman/Superman #5.

But for now, we’ve got a lot to get to…

TITLE: Star Wars: The Rise of Kylo Ren #1 (of 4)
AUTHOR:
Charles Soule
ARTISTS: Will Sliney. GuruFX (Colors). Travis Lanham (Letterer). Cover by Clayton Crain.
RELEASED:
December 18, 2019

I was ready to be mad at this issue for giving us stuff we should have gotten in one of the movies. As it turns out, this was benign.

In The Last Jedi, Luke says that after burning down the temple, Ben Solo left with some of his other students. Here, we learn that doesn’t quite mean what it sounds like. We also learn who the Knights of Ren are, which is welcome information.

Not the strongest first issue I’ve ever seen. But the intrigue around what happened to Ben Solo is enough to bring us back for more.

TITLE: Doomsday Clock #12
AUTHOR: Geoff Johns
ARTIST: Gary Frank, Brad Anderson (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer).
RELEASED: December 18, 2019

From the beginning, we’ve known this book has been building toward Superman vs. Doctor Manhattan. A symbol of hope against a symbol of cynicism. The implication being that Superman would ultimately get through to Doc, and bring about a change of heart.

We do get a scene like that in this issue. But it’s so brief, and frankly a little contrived, that it was hardly worth the two years of build-up.

That’s right, folks. Doomsday Clock #1 came out in November 2017. It’s taken us more than two years to get here. Really takes the edge off, doesn’t it?

TITLE: Batman #85
AUTHOR: Tom King
ARTISTS: Mikel Janin, Hugo Petrus, Jordie Bellaire (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by Tony Daniel.
RELEASED: December 19, 2019

Here we have yet another big finale that ends not with a bang, but with a whimper.

Tom King is a good writer. I believe that. But for whatever reason, this “City of Bane” story went on way too long, and he ended up overstaying his welcome on Batman. The truly sad part? There’s a good story in here if you rifle through it, and maybe rearrange some pieces.

On the upside? Mikel Janin’s work on Batman has been consistently great. As far as I’m concerned, he’s welcome back in Gotham any time.

TITLE: American Jesus #1
AUTHOR: Mark Millar
ARTISTS: Peter Gross, Jeanne McGee (Colorist), Cory Petit (Letterer). Cover by McGee and Frank Quitely.
RELEASED:
December 18, 2019

A 14-year-old Hispanic girl becomes the modern-day Virgin Mary in a story written by the guy who did books like Kick-Ass and Nemesis? Sure. Sounds harmless enough…

Maybe it’s me, but the art in this book seems a little weird. Like the proportions are just a touch off. It’s minor, just just prominent enough to be noticeable.

There’s a lot of intrigue here, given the sensitive topic and Millar’s penchant for the outlandish. While there’s nothing blasphemous in this issue (at least as far as I can see), I figure it’s just a matter of time.

TITLE: Spider-Man #3 (of 5)
AUTHORS: J.J. Abrams, Henry Abrams
ARTISTS: Sara Pichelli, Elisabetta D’Amico (Inking Assistant), Dave Stewart (Colorist), Joe Caramagna (Letterer). Cover by Olivier Coipel.
RELEASED: December 18, 2019

Tony Stark pops up in this book, and now our story has an Avengers angle to it. That’s disappointing. This is a story about the legacy of Spider-Man, and the strained relationship between a father and son. So why not keep the lens focused on Spidey’s world, and not open things up to the larger Marvel Universe until later? We need to be focusing on Ben right now. Not some wacky take on Tony Stark as an old man.

On the upside, we get further into who Cadaverous is. Good stuff, with Pichelli’s art on point.

TITLE: Suicide Squad #1
AUTHOR: Tom Taylor
ARTISTS:
Bruno Redondo, Adriano Lucas (Colorist), Wes Abbott (Letterer). Cover by Ivan Reis.
RELEASED:
December 18, 2019

While it lacks the impact and sizzle of a Jim-Lee-drawn debut, this issue has some intrigue to it. We’ve got three mainstays in Deadshot, Harley, and King Shark. But we’ve also got a big group of new characters. They kind of look like what Marv Wolfman and George Perez would produce if asked to produce a modern team of superheroes.

Mind you, some of them are dead when we close the issue. But if even one of them sticks for a decent amount of time, that’s an accomplishment.

TITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #46
AUTHOR: Ryan Parrott
ARTISTS: Daniele Di Nicuolo, Walter Baiamonte (Colorist), Katia Ranalli (Color Assistant), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Cover by Jamal Campbell.
RELEASED: December 18, 2019

A few little things I noticed that aren’t out of character per se, but perhaps show how these characters are different in this time period…

– Tommy’s more relaxed demeanor now that they’re seemingly no longer Earth’s last line of defense.

– Kimberly stepping up into more of a leadership role with the three new Rangers.

– Trini’s more sarcastic personality. It’s not how I would write the character, as she’s normally more reserved. But we can chalk it up to her gaining confidence through her experiences as a Power Ranger.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

Weekly Comic 100s: Spider-Man #2, Batman #81

*”Weekly Comic 100s” keeps it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Nothing too in-depth here. Just straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

TITLE: Spider-Man #2
AUTHORS:
J.J. Abrams, Henry Abrams
ARTISTS:
Sara Pichelli, Elisabetta D’Amico (Inking Assistant), Dave Stewart (Colorist), Joe Caramagna (Letterer). Cover by Olivier Coipel and Dave Stewart. 
RELEASED:
October 16, 2019

Whether you like this J.J. Abrams stuff or not, I can say his name value got me to buy a Spider-Man comic again.

Ben Parker got into this dad’s old costume pretty quickly. But I buy his motivation: He does it to impress a girl. I mean, c’mon! He’s a ninth grade boy. That’s usually about as complex as their motivations get.

Sara Pichelli continues to turn in not just awesome art, but art that’s distinctly different from her work on Miles Morales. Needless to say, she’s become one of the definitive Spider-Man artists of this era.

TITLE: Batman #81
AUTHOR:
Tom King
ARTISTS:
John Romita Jr (Penciller), Klaus Janson (Inker), Tomeu Morey (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer) Mitch Gerads (Co-Penciller, Co-Inker, Co-Colorist)
RELEASED:
October 16, 2019

I’m not the world’s biggest Tony Daniel fan. But the switch from his art to John Romita Jr’s has been jarring.  The look and texture of the story has changed halfway through. That’s rarely a good thing.

When Tom King tries to pull the “Batman had a plan all along” card, my initial was, “I don’t buy it.” Also, King makes the Flashpoint Batman’s fighting prowess so exceptional it almost becomes cartoonish. Especially with how it’s executed.  Maybe these opinions will change once the story ends, or I have more time to absorb it. But for now, they’re losin’ me…

TITLE: Star Wars: Allegiance #2
AUTHOR: Ethan Sacks
ARTISTS: Luke Ross, Lee Loughridge (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by Marco Checchetto
RELEASED: October 16, 2019

I’m finding myself wanting more Kylo Ren in this book. Especially after reading that Snoke one-shot they put out a few weeks ago, where the two characters go to Dagobah. Still, I understand why they might not be able to do that, as we’re obviously building to the movie. We do, however, get to spend some quality time with Rey, which is nice.

We learn in this issue that Admiral Ackbar has a son, but only met him once because “his focus was elsewhere.” Apparently the only good dad in the galaxy was Bail Organa…

TITLE: Something is Killing the Children #2
AUTHOR: James Tynion IV
ARTISTS: Werther Dell-Edera, Miquel Muerto (Colorist), Andworld Design (Inks)
RELEASED: October 16, 2019

I’m digging this book so far. Attention-grabbing title aside, Tynion, Dell-Edera, and the rest of this team have started a great horror-mystery. It’s got kind of a Stephen King/YA novel/Twilight Zone feel to it.

As the mystery of this supernatural child-devouring menace unfolds, the book manages to entice the hell out of you with how gorgeously grotesque some of these things are. The intrigue there, along with our likable female anti-hero, makes it easy to come back for more.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

A Batman: The Rules of Engagement Review – Woundmates

TITLE: Batman, Vol. 5: The Rules of Engagement
AUTHOR: Tom King
PENCILLERS: Joelle Jones, Clay Mann, Lee Weeks, Michael Lark
COLLECTS: Batman #3337, Batman Annual #2
FORMAT:
Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $16.99
RELEASED:
April 25, 2018

***WARNING: One or two minor spoilers ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Didja catch that? See what they did there? “Rules of Engagement.” Only it’s like, engagement. You know, to be married and stuff. Yeah, you get it. See, it’s that kind of clever wordplay that’s kept the Batman mythos alive for 80 years…

So before DC went and made a lot of people mad with the Batman/Catwoman wedding storyline, this was the early portion of the build-up. Basically, this is the part where most of Bruce Wayne’s closest allies react to his decision to marry Selina Kyle. Damian, Dick, and his various surrogate sons. Superman. Even Talia al Ghul. Hijinks and violence ensue.

Oooo! I’ve got one! Ready? Together, Bruce and Selina are about to learn that the only “rules of engagement,” are that there are no rules.

Oh c’mon! If they can get away with Rules of Engagement

1. A Walk Through the Desert
The first part of the book sees Batman and Catwoman enter the Middle Eastern country of Khadym, which the U.N. and the Justice League have designated off-limits. It also happens to house Talia al Ghul and the League of Assassins. But Talia has something Bruce and Selina need to move forward with their marriage. Thus, the two sides are on a collision course. As you might expect, there are swords involved. Like, a lot of swords.

Presumably because of Batman v Superman, this book sees Batman don a duster and goggles, despite also being in full costume. It was stupid in the movie. It’s no less stupid here. The look would eventually return for another desert story, and it was no less stupid there either. I’ll be incredibly happy when this damn trend fades away.

As she would later do on the Catwoman series, Joelle Jones turns in some marvelous work, alongside colorist Jordie Bellaire. While her style, complete with the dark jagged lines, doesn’t exactly mesh well with the quiet scenes in Wayne Manor, it’s a tremendous fit for all the desert stuff. Jones often shines when the dramatic and the grotesque come together. So when things get bloody, slicey, and stabby, she’s right at home.

Not surprisingly, things culminate in a fight between Talia and Selina. It manages to be a pretty good fight. Not because of the physicality, but because of a stretch of dialogue where Selina proves she knows Bruce in a way Talia never has. She has a kind of insight into his mind and heart of which Talia may be incapable. From a writing standpoint, it’s one of the highlights of Tom King’s entire Batman run.

King also revisits the “Can Batman be happy?” idea he touched on during I Am Gotham. He uses Damian, grief-stricken that his father is marrying “that woman,” and Dick Grayson. Again, very poignant and effective stuff that cuts to the heart of the Batman character. I’ll leave it at that for now, as we’ll need to revisit it down the road anyway.

2. Double Date
The book shifts from bloody to comedic for a double date story that tips its hat to the sillier Superman/Batman stuff from the Golden Age. In “Super Friends,” Bruce and Selina take in a night at a carnival with Clark Kent and Lois Lane. King, Clay Mann, co-inker Seth Mann, and Bellaire go all out with the premise. The characters wear each other’s superhero costumes. Lois and Selina get drunk from a flask. Superman and Batman swing at baseballs. By and large, it’s genuinely fun. Clay Mann’s rendering of Clark Kent in the Batsuit, glasses and all, is hilarious.

It does, however, raise one of the issues I often have with King’s writing: He can go a little off the deep end with the banter. It’s not so much an issue in “Super Friends,” as it’s a blatant comedy. But when you have, for instance, a high-stakes tale about Batman and Catwoman confronting Talia and the League of Assassins, going too heavy on the banter can cut into the drama.

Case in point, when we open issue #34, Batman and Catwoman are surrounded by assassins, hell bent on cutting them to pieces. This is a portion of the dialogue we get just before the fighting gets underway…

B: “Cat, I may be wearing a leather bat costume. But do I look dumb enough to make fun of you?
C: “I don’t know, Bat. Do I look dumb enough to not know what ‘a lot’ is?”
B: “No. You look lovely.”
C: “Sure, you say that now. Wait’ll I’ve got their blood all over me.”

One of King’s greatest strengths in writing Batman is how he conveys the connection between Batman and Catwoman. But even by couple-bickering standards, stuff like this is overindulgent. Sadly, this book is hardly the end of it.

3. Woundmates
I read an article not long ago that introduced me to the term “woundmate.”  Long story short, it’s someone with whom you share a similar kind of trauma, or unsolved emotional problems and as such they feel like a soulmate. But in the end, they aren’t.

Re-reading “Some of These Days” from Batman Annual #2 reminded me of that article. Because in the end, that’s what Bruce and Selina are. Woundmates. That’s beautifully, and literally, illustrated by Lee Weeks as he channels his inner David Mazzucchelli. The story is obviously meant to be an extension of Batman: Year One, but it doesn’t work at all without Weeks.

Michael Lark is tagged in for the last few pages, as we time-jump to a potential future where Bruce and Selina have grown old together. Again, poignant. And downright touching when you get right down to it. I love Gotham Central as much as anybody, so I’ll never complain about seeing Lark back on a Bat-book.

4. A Deeper Connection
King uses the annual to retcon Batman and Catwoman’s history so they have a deeper connection. Most notable is that they discover one another’s identities very early on. I can’t say I love that, but I don’t hate it either.

What I’m not necessarily a fan of is Catwoman’s motivation in the story. She breaks into Wayne Manor multiple times, and later reveals she’s been doing it to essentially sharpen Batman’s edges so he doesn’t get killed. (See above image.)

Frankly, I just don’t buy it. Maybe I’m too hung up on the classic Batman/Catwoman presentation where they’re simply flirtatious. I can accept Selina being able to penetrate the walls Bruce has put up and catch him off guard. I can accept the idea that she cares about him. But something just isn’t right about the notion that she takes time out of her life to sharpen Batman’s skills. Remember how early in her career this is supposed to be. Early on, Catwoman is a hardened thief out for herself. She may have a heart of gold underneath it all, but that only extends so far…

5. The Verdict
The Rules of Engagement isn’t a must-read, even if you’re simply following the wedding storyline. It has the same flaws as most of Tom King’s Batman run. There is, however, some amazing art to be seen. I can’t help but be partial to Lee Weeks, but it’s also a strong outing for Joelle Jones. And if, like me, you’re a fan of the way King writes Bruce and Selina’s chemistry, you’ll enjoy it.

For more of Tom King’s run on Batman, check out I Am Gotham, I Am Suicide, I Am Bane, Batman/The Flash: The Button, and The War of Jokes and Riddles.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

Panels of Awesomeness: Batman by Mark Bagley

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

THE ISSUE: Batman #688

CREATORS: Judd Winick (Author), Mark Bagley (Penciller), Rob Hunter (Inker), Ian Hannin (Colorist), Jared K. Fletcher (Letterer)

RELEASED: July 8, 2009. Collected in Batman: Long Shadows.

THE SCENE: Shortly after taking up the mantle of Batman, Dick Grayson trains with Damian Wayne, who has just become the new Robin.

WHY THEY’RE AWESOME: This scene has been hanging around in my subconscious for the near-decade since it was published.

On the surface, it’s not particularly remarkable. Just Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne training together. Sort of a Karate Kid scenario with Dick in the Mr. Miyagi role. But as Eric Bischoff might say, “context is king.” This issue came out shortly after Final Crisis, in which Bruce Wayne “died” at the hands of Darkseid. Thus, Dick Grayson has once again taken on the role of Batman, and Damian has become Robin.

Putting these two together was a perfect recipe for personality conflicts. Dick’s generally friendly and warm personality clashed with Damian’s defiant, abrasive, and often bratty disposition. Especially early on in their partnership.

But in Batman #688, Judd Winick took the time to balance the scales a little bit, and show us is indeed a qualified mentor for Damian. Not necessarily because of his fighting prowess, but the patience and wisdom years of experience have brought him. It’s a quality that can’t be taught, and one that makes for a damn good teacher.

I was working on a piece of fiction recently, with a scene that had a similar teacher/student premise. For whatever reason, I kept coming back to the line Dick has at the end of this scene: “Don’t anticipate.” I like that. Simple. Concise.

I know Judd Winick isn’t everybody’s favorite Batman writer. But more often than not, I really dug his stuff. Throw in the art by Mark Bagley, who’d just come off his legendary run on Ultimate Spider-Man, and these pages definitely have their fair share of awesomeness.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.