Who is Nightwing? – Guest Stars Galore!

***As Nightwing’s public profile grows higher via the Titans TV series and the upcoming Gotham Knights game, “Who is Nightwing?” looks at Dick Grayson’s early solo adventures after stepping out of Batman’s shadow.***

TITLES: Nightwing 1/2, #1929
AUTHOR: Chuck Dixon
ARTISTS: Scott McDaniel, Greg Land, Karl Story (Inker), Roberta Tewes (Colorist), John Costanza (Letterer)
PUBLISHER:
DC Comics
ORIGINAL SELLING PRICE:
$1.95 per issue
ORIGINALLY RELEASED:
1998-1999
CURRENTLY COLLECTED IN:
Nightwing: Vol. 3: False Starts

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

So Nightwing has had its first chapter, its “Villains Chapter,” and we had what I’ll call the “Huntress Chapter.” In keeping with the sequence, this would have to be the “Guest Stars Chapter,” as it’s largely held up by guest appearances from other characters. We see Huntress again, along with plenty of Robin, some Batman, among others. Thankfully, these are still Nightwing stories at heart.

Most of these issues were published while the big No Man’s Land crossover was happening in all the Batman books. So a couple of them tie in. When word reaches Bludhaven that a massive Earthquake has struck Gotham City (They didn’t feel anything over there? I thought Bludhaven was just down river…), Dick rushes to his former home to help with the relief effort. In issue #19 we get his initial reaction to all the destruction, and spend a little time with a mother and her young child trapped underground. Naturally, Nightwing eventually has to come to their aid. Then in issue #21 he reunites with Oracle and Robin, and repels into what remains of the Batcave.

Chuck Dixon writes the hell out of these quake issues. The stuff with the mother and child in issue #20 is especially strong. He makes you care about these one-off characters you’re never going to see again, while also driving home just how dire the situation is.

As I’ve said previously, Scott McDaniel’s strengths, at least on this book at this time, were action scenes. The quieter and more emotional stuff is hit or miss, given his style. For instance, the panel at the top left of Nightwing and Robin reacting to the state of Wayne Manor and the Batcave? I’d call that a miss. It’s obviously not supposed to be a funny moment. But I’d call those faces, particularly Dick’s, unintentionally funny.

On the subject of Robin/Tim Drake, the best issue in the collection is the one where he and Dick get some quality time. They’re blindfolded on top of speeding trains. But everything is relative, I suppose.

We see enough of Tim in this collection that he almost becomes a series regular. But issue #25 stands out because Dixon has a chance to do some great character work with two heroes he knows about as well as anybody. It’s not just their mutual experiences as Robin that bring them together. It’s the brotherly relationship they have. Tim legitimately wants Dick’s advice (“My girlfriend’s pregnant.”) and Dick legitimately cares. The speeding train scenario also plays right into Scott McDaniel’s strengths.

Issue #23 is part four of a five-part crossover with Green Arrow (Conner Hawke’s book), Detective Comics, and Robin. Amazingly, Dixon was writing all those books at the time. It’s not much of a read if you haven’t seen the first three issues. But it’s cool to see how Dixon write Dick’s rapport with Tim and Conner. We even briefly see both Batman and Black Canary, which is fun.

In issue #27, Inspector Dudley Soames, a frienemy of Nightwing’s we’ve been following since early in the series, completes his transformation into the villainous Torque (shown left). Torque is comic book ridiculousness at its most glorious. He’s a man whose head has been twisted backwards, and finds vengeance by pumping his enemies with a whole lot of lead. You won’t find Torque on any “Best of” lists. But you’ve got to begrudgingly respect him, right? I mean, try doing anything with your head twisted around like that. Just sayin’. Can’t be easy.

As for Dick and Huntress/Helena Bertinelli, there’s some inconsistency between her demeanor here and what we saw in Nightwing/Huntress. That four-issue mini was flawed, but it was also pretty good at being self-contained. Dick and Helena had their fling, decided things wouldn’t work between them, but ultimately still worked together as heroes. Issue #29 however, implies she’s still holding out hope they can be together. It feels like there’s a desperation there that doesn’t look good on her. (Example shown below.)

Still, I came away from these issues with a new appreciation for what DC was trying to do with Dick and Helena. They’re those two people that are so wrong for each other, but are still incredibly attracted to one another. So they keep falling into the same trap and hooking up again and again. But they just can’t make it work as a relationship. They’re too different. Dick and Helena didn’t have an ongoing thing. But otherwise, I’d say that description fits them to a T.

One of the elements that goes a long way in distinguishing Dick from other members of Batman’s surrogate family is just how well he gets along with the superhero community at large. He’s not quiet, moody, and broody the way Batman is. If anything, he’s the opposite. As such, people gravitate toward him. Rarely will you find that on display better than in some of these issues.

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

Weekly Comic 100s: Juggernaut, Drakkon New Dawn, 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: Juggernaut #1
AUTHOR: Fabian Nicieza
ARTISTS: Ron Garney, Matt Milla (Colorist), Joe Sabino (Letterer). Cover by Geoff Shaw.
RELEASED: September 23, 2020

This is about what you’d think would come from a Juggernaut solo book. We dive into the more sensitive side of Cain Marko as he does, of all things, a damage control job.

The art doesn’t necessarily have the sense of movement that I was hoping to see from a Juggernaut comic. But the rendering of Cain himself is good, the book has a nice texture, and it’s got a decent opening premise. This issue won’t blow your mind. But it just might bring you back for next time.

TITLE: Power Rangers: Drakkon New Dawn #2
AUTHOR: Anthony Burch
ARTISTS: Simone Ragazzoni, Raul Angulo (Colorist), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Cover by Jung-Geun Yoon.
RELEASED: September 23, 2020

We get a return here that’s not surprising, given the tease we saw last time. Thankfully, that return ushers in a certain return to form by the end of the issue. New Dawn was starting to look less and less like a Power Rangers story. I’m now mildly curious to see where they take this, which is more than I could say last time. So the issue accomplishes that, at least.

This art doesn’t do much for me. There’s a messiness to it. All the dull and drab colors of this “dark” timeline don’t do it any favors either.

TITLE: Batgirl #49
AUTHOR: Cecil Castellucci
ARTISTS: Robbi Rodriguez, Jordie Bellaire (Colorist), Andworld Design (Letters). Cover by Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith, & Jean-Francois Beaulieu.
RELEASED: September 22, 2020

I dig Robbi Rodriguez’s art. But in this issue his version of Jim Gordon looks like a cartoon dog with an oversized mustache. Maybe scale that thing back?

One thing I appreciate about this series, granted having only revisited it recently, is how it’s more about the Gordon family than just Barbara/Batgirl. And indeed, that’s where most of the drama comes from in this issue. There’s also an apparent death that I really hope isn’t what it appears to be.

TITLE: Batman #99
AUTHOR: James Tynion IV
ARTISTS: Jorge Jimenez, Tomeu Morey (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer)
RELEASED: September 15, 2020

I’ve finally realized why “Joker War” isn’t landing with me: This “Joker knows Batman’s identity” genie is probably going back in the bottle. Hopefully sooner rather than later. So we’re missing a sense of consequence.

There’s a nice little moment between Batman and Dick Grayson in this issue. Though if the cover were to more accurately reflect what’s in the issue, it would feature Batman and Harley Quinn. She’s had a bunch of weighty conversations during “Joker War.” She might want to start a podcast at this point.

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

Weekly Comic 100s: “Joker War,” Billionaire Island, 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: Red Hood: Outlaw #48
AUTHOR: Scott Lobdell
ARTISTS: Brett Booth, Danny Miki (Inker), Arif Prianto (Colorist), Troy Peteri (Letterer). Cover by Dan Mora & Tamra Bonvillain.
RELEASED: August 25, 2020

These “Joker War” tie-ins are giving me New 52 flashbacks. When “A Death in the Family” was running in Batman, it seemed like they couldn’t crank out enough tie-in issues.

But as far as Joker-themed tie-in issues go, this is a pretty decent one. It’s suitably focused on Jason, pits another Bat-family character against him, and incorporates a location that’s been a mainstay in the book.

On the downside, they kill off a character for no good reason. One that I thought had a decent fan following too…?

TITLE: Detective Comics #1026
AUTHOR: Peter Tomasi
ARTISTS: Kenneth Rocafort, Daniel Brown (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer)
RELEASED: August 25, 2020

There’s a panel on the opening page of this issue that’s markedly similar to an Alex Ross painting of Batman standing between stone gargoyles. Anyone else notice that? Or am I just an Alex Ross buff?

Actual exclamation in this issue: “Murderize him!”

I’m not the biggest Kenneth Rocafort fan. But in this atmosphere, Batman vs. Killer Croc in the Gotham sewers, he’s at home. His work here is enjoyable.

Tomasi, who has run hot and cold on Detective, is on his game too. This is the best issue this series has seen in many weeks.

TITLE: Batgirl #48
AUTHOR: Cecil Castellucci
ARTISTS: Robbi Rodriguez, Jordie Bellaire (Colorist), Andworld Design (Letters). Cover by Giuseppe Camuncoli.
RELEASED: August 25, 2020

I’ve been away for awhile (mostly because I don’t like Batgirl’s current costume)…since when does Commissioner Gordon call his daughter “Babs?” That feels weird to me.

After reading this issue, I feel bad sleeping on Cecil Castellucci. She writes a damn good Barbara Gordon. Robbi Rodriguez and Jordie Bellaire are a great team too. There’s a really nice fluidity to the work here. And as this issue happens to be the first of a new story, I just might stick around.

For all the good it’ll do. This series ends with issue #50.

TITLE: Billionaire Island #5
AUTHOR: Mark Russel
ARTISTS: Steve Pugh, Chris Chuckry (Colorist), Rob Steen (Letterer)
RELEASED: August 26, 2020

The art by Steve Pugh and Chris Chuckry has highlighted Billionaire Island for me. Almost every expression is exaggerated to the point of caricature. But in a dark comedy you can do that.

I’m not sure who that’s supposed to be on the cover. I mean, it’s the President of the United States, obviously. But I thought Billionaire Island had cast a Kid Rock stand-in as POTUS. This guy looks more like Carrot Top with blond locks. *shudders*

I wouldn’t say this book has maintained the same level of interest from me, but it’s still worth a look.

TITLE: Fantastic Four: Antithesis #1
AUTHOR: Mark Waid
ARTISTS: Neal Adams, Mark Farmer (Inker), Laura Martin (Colorist), Joe Caramagna (Letterer)
RELEASED: August 26, 2020

This book gave me not-so-nice flashbacks to Adams’ recent Batman work. That’s a shame, as Adams is legitimately an innovator who’s earned his place in American comic book history. His art looks great here (though Thing’s face looks a little awkward), and Laura Martin’s colors pop beautifully. I just wouldn’t hire Adams as a writer.

Thankfully, you won’t find many writers (if any) better than Mark Waid. So Adams is in good hands for what is apparently his first-ever full-length FF story.

TITLE: Suicide Squad #8
AUTHOR: Tom Taylor
ARTISTS: Daniel Sampere, Adriano Lucas (Colorist), Wes Abbott (Letterer)
RELEASED: August 25, 2020

Deadshot has a puppy named Dogshot? That is absolute perfection, and needs to be in both the new video game and the new movie.

Given both the announcements we just got at DC Fandome, it’s surprising this book is on the recent list of casualties over at DC. It’s a shame for so many reasons, not the least of which is the effort the creative team have put into the creation of new characters. Case in point, this issue, in which we dive into some backstories. Hopefully we can bring them back at some point.

TITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #108
AUTHORS: Sophie Campbell (Story), Ronda Pattison (Script), Kevin Eastman & Tom Waltz (Story Consultants)
ARTISTS: Nelson Daniel, Pattison (Colorist), Shawn Lee (Letterer)
RELEASED: August 26, 2020

This issue brings up something I never, ever thought we’d have in a TMNT story. With Mutant Town now existing essentially it’s own city within a city, our heroes are now pondering if they should form their own government and police force. Are the Turtles getting into politics? By God, some things are too evil for even the boys in green to take on…

For whatever reason, since issue #101 the Turtles have been wearing clothes more. I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to that.

TITLE: Wonder Woman #761
AUTHOR: Mariko Tamaki
ARTISTS: Carlo Barberi, Matt Santorelli (Inker), Alejandro Sanchez (Colorist), Pat Brosseau (Letterer). Cover by David Marquez & Sanchez.
RELEASED: August 25, 2020

Barberi does a fine job on this issue. To the point that I wouldn’t mind him being the regular artist. But because he drew the last two issues, I quickly found myself missing Mikel Janin.

As for Tamaki, she gives Maxwell Lord a great “history is controlled by the victors” speech. Diana refers to him as the villain, and she talks about the Justice League controlling “the flow of justice in this world.” In the context of the story it’s very convincing, and a great character moment for Max.

Then I got to the last page, and my heart broke.

TITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #53
AUTHOR: Ryan Parrott
ARTISTS: Moises Hidalgo, Walter Baiamonte & Katia Ranalli (Colorists), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Cover by Jamal Campbell
RELEASED: August 26, 2020

I’m diggin’ the designs of these new Dark Ranger suits. Their identities seem like a missed opportunity to introduce new characters. But then again, this series is ending soon. That seems to be a theme this week…

This is the first issue where Moises Hidalgo impressed me. He gets a nice, long battle sequence between our good and evil Ranger teams. So he’s able to really spread his wings, and it shows.

Grace (Remember her?) makes a truly stupid suggestion in this issue. So stupid, in fact, that I’m sure it’ll come to pass.

TITLE: Action Comics #1024
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS: John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson (Inker), Brad Anderson (Colorist), Dave Sharpe (Letterer)
RELEASED: August 25, 2020

There are a lot of Super-people in this book. We’re up to five. If the “Superman family” gets too big, it pretty much makes the Justice League obsolete, doesn’t it? Plus, they spend part of the issue flying over Metropolis, scanning it with X-Ray vision. Creepy much? We’ve also got all the usual problems with John Romita Jr’s sloppy art.

Why am I still buying this book?

TITLE: Batman/Superman #11
AUTHOR: Joshua Williamson
ARTISTS: Clayton Henry, Alejandro Sanchez (Colorist), John J. Hill (Letterer). Cover by David Marquez.
RELEASED: August 25, 2020

This story about the Ultra-Humanite and Atomic Skull is essentially three issues of filler. But it’s good filler, I’ll give it that. Clayton Henry and Alejandro Sanchez turn in work that crackles with that great comic book superhero energy.

There’s a subplot in here about Superman not asking for Batman’s advice before he revealed his true identity to the world. It’s a little too far in the background for my taste, though. I’d have liked to see them explore that with some of the page space they used for textbook hero/villain dialogue with the Ultra-Humanite.

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

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.

A Batman, Vol. 9: The Tyrant Wing Deep-Dive – Penguin Steals the Show

TITLE: Batman, Vol. 9: The Tyrant Wing
AUTHORS: Tom King, Ram V, Cheryl Lynn Eaton, Jordie Bellaire, Tom Taylor,
ARTISTS: Mikel Janin, Jorge Fornes, Elena Casagrande, Jill Thompson, Otto Schmidt
COLORISTS: Bellaire, Matt Wilson, Trish Mulvhill,
LETTERERS: Clayton Cowles, Steve Wands, Deron Bennett, Troy Peteri
COLLECTS: Batman #58-60, Batman Secret Files #1, Batman Annual #3
FORMAT:
Softcover
PUBLISHER:
DC Comics
PRICE: $16.99
RELEASED: March 20, 2019

***WARNING: There’s a minor spoiler ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

The Tyrant Wing is more or less a transitionary book. Bruce and Selina’s wedding has happened. Or rather, not happened. We dealt with a lot of the fall-out from it in Cold Days. In The Tyrant Wing we start setting the stage for Tom King’s big finale. A new opponent for Batman emerges. One that even the world’s greatest detective couldn’t possibly have anticipated.

But along the way King, Mikel Janin, and the Batman team unexpectedly do some justice for a character that doesn’t always get the love he deserves: The Penguin.

1. Penny In Your Thoughts
If you’re a guy who happens to be down on his luck romantically, I offer you this bit of consolation: If the Penguin can find a bride, so can you.

Then again, she’s dead now. So maybe that’s not the hopeful example we wanna go with.

Yes, apparently ol’ Pengers had a wife we never saw or heard about. Her name? Penny Cobblepot. Though almost 30 years younger than him, it’s quickly obvious Penguin loved her dearly. Suddenly, he’s a man with nothing left to lose. So he starts spilling secrets. Secrets about Bane…

To Tom King’s credit, this might be the most multi-dimensional take on the Penguin I’ve ever seen. We see pieces of virtually every version of the character. We get the squawking supervillain with the trick umbrellas. We get the freakish, portly gentleman with the soul of a poet. We get the unspeakably cruel crime boss. We even get a small trace of the fish-slurping monster we saw in Batman Returns. Like many Batman villains, we’re against him but we also manage to find some sympathy for him.

Like a lot of fans, I’ve given King my share of grief over some of the choices he’s made on this series. I’ll continue to do so, in fact. But he knocked ol’ Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot right out of the park.

This is most evident in issue #60. A blindfolded Penguin is locked up in the Batcave talking to Alfred. This is instantly compelling, as we don’t often see Alfred interacting with the villains, much less one he might have something in common with. They bond over, of all things, poetry. At one point, Penguin even calls his anonymous keeper, “my friend.” Alfred then feeds him raw fish by hand. It’s one of those scenes that, considering both characters have been around for decades, it’s shocking it hasn’t been done.

As the Penguin endures heartbreak, Batman punches his way across Gotham searching for the truth about what Bane is plotting. Naturally, this causes a hell of a lot of friction with Gordon and the GCPD. None of this really grabbed me, as we’ve seen this kind of story many times before. Things get a little more engaging in issue #60 when Jorge Fornes tags in for the Batman sequences.

Unfortunately, I do need to make note of one the clunkier lines in this entire run. When Batman barges into Arkham to confront Bane, he’s met by a SWAT team. As he’s dismantling them, while generally being a raging prick about the whole thing, he says among other things…

“Right now, each of you has a choice to make. Do I pull that trigger and get a Bat-boot shoved through my face? Or do I let the man go about his business?”

Yup. Bat-boot. Our legendary hero, everybody.

2. The Butler Does It All
We shift gears here. Venturing away from the main plot, we move to author Tom Taylor and artist Otto Schmidt and one of the best Alfred Pennyworth stories of the modern era. If not all time.

Given the stunt DC recently pulled with Alfred, they put out an issue dedicated to him. Various members of the Batman family shared memories of him. But frankly, something like Batman Annual #3 is a much better tribute issue. It touches on the various things Alfred does to make the whole Batman operation work. But more importantly, it dives  into why he does it and what he gets from it.

Think of it this way: Gotham needs Batman. Batman needs Alfred. So at the end of the day, what does that make Alfred?

3. Batman in Quarantine (Kind of…)
The trade closes out with a Secret Files issue that’s very much a mixed bag. We open up with a three-page Tom King/Mikel Janin story. Or rather, part of a story. As Batman is feeling the wear and tear on his body, Superman just happens to offer him access to a new kind of Kryptonite. Platinum Kryptonite, of which a single touch will grant him the same powers as Superman. The story ends with Bruce asking Alfred, “Am I enough?”

I call BS on this for two reasons.

Firstly, to just end the story on that note, even if it’s only meant to serve as an introduction, is a crime. Batman is literally offered all the same powers as Superman. And you don’t give his answer? What kinda lazy garbage is that? Over a decade ago, DC put out a story called Super/Bat that more or less had this same premise, and Batman does get Superman’s powers. It was amazing. If you want to give your own take on that story, but all means go for it. But to leave it open-ended like that? Screw you.

Secondly, while it’s not a direct line of dialogue, it’s indicated that Superman tells Batman if he touches this new Kryptonite, “Then you can fight as I fight. As you should fight. With true strength.”

No. Wrong. I understand the implication they’re making about where true strength comes from. But Superman’s “true strength” does not come from his powers. It comes from his character. From his ideals. The way he views the world. I don’t have an issue with him offering Batman super powers. But for him to suggest that’s where “true strength” comes from is out of character. Bad form.

After a story about a cop feeling long-term effects from Scarecrow gas, we get one about Waynetech drones winding up in the wrong hands and what Bruce does about it. I actually got more of an Iron Man vibe from that one. The book closes with a team-up between Batman and Detective Chimp, which is fun.

But the only other story in the issue that really sticks out is a tale written by colorist extraordinaire Jordie Bellaire. On Man-Bat’s trail, Batman secludes himself in a cabin amidst Gotham’s snow-covered mountains. As it turns out, this notorious loner doesn’t do so well when he’s forced to be on his own.

The operative line of the story is, “Truth is, I’m not such a fan of myself.”

The central idea here is really compelling. What does Bruce Wayne’s self image look like? What does a man who goes out every night dressed like a bat to beat up criminals think of himself? You could do a whole story on that.

While this was written some time ago, it’s timely to discuss it now. As I type this we’re in the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic. People around the world are quarantined in their homes. Naturally, that’s not always an easy thing to do. Even if you’re Batman.

4. A Bridge Worth Crossing
Is The Tyrant Wing an essential read? No. But is it a good read? Yes. I enjoyed this book more than many of the earlier books in this series. Mostly because of the Penguin. I’ll go ahead and say it: Too many people sleep on him as a character. He’s more than just a portly dude with an umbrella. He’s a scoundrel. He’s a gentleman. He’s an iconic villain.

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?, The Wedding, and Cold Days.

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

A Black Canary: Ignite Review – Listen to the Music

TITLE: Black Canary: Ignite
AUTHOR: Meg Cabot
ARTISTS:
Cara McGee, Caitlin Quirk (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer)
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Zoom
PRICE: $9.99
RELEASED: October 29, 2019

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Comics are visual medium. That should be news to approximately no one at all.

That’s why it’s usually difficult to follow a comic book where music is a story component. Sure, you can print lyrics on a page. But if you can’t take in the melody, feel the beat, and hear the emotion in the singer’s voice, it tends to take the punch out of a story.

Thus, I cannot overstate the importance of this video…

In Black Canary: Ignite, Dinah Lance is a brash middle schooler and the lead singer in a band with her two best friends. When we open the book, Dinah and her band are playing the song heard in the video above. With this audio acting as a supplement, it’s exponentially easier to be drawn into Ignite, and the story that’s beginning to unfold. Does it work without the video to accompany it? Sure. But I’d argue the book should have had an advertisement for the video in it. It makes that big a difference in terms of the overall experience.

Middle school is hard enough without learning to control a superpower. But that’s the position our young heroine finds herself in, as she inherits the supersonic “Canary Cry” from her mother. While Dinah comes to grips with what this means for her future, a mysterious villain stalks the Lance family…

Our author is Meg Cabot, who famously wrote The Princess Diaries series, which was later adapted into the films starring Anne Hathaway. It was interesting to read this book after Dear Justice League. That book was geared toward the same age group, but essentially anyone could enjoy it. Ignite, however, is clearly running on girl power. That’s not to say boys shouldn’t pick it up. But it’s aimed at a specific portion of the market, and also skews a bit younger than the other DC Zoom/DC Kids books I’ve read. I’d actually be more inclined to hand it to a kid about to go into middle school than someone already there.

The story has a lot of your standard teen tropes. Conflict with parents, conflict with friends, conflict with a teacher. Nothing that jumps out as especially unique or memorable. But it’s all well and good.

One slight complaint? Our story takes place in Gotham City. Dinah’s father, a police detective, is drawn almost exactly like Commissioner Gordon. Same white hair. Same mustache. Same brown trench coat. Slap a pair of glasses on him, and you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between the two. I can see kids familiar with Batman’s world reading this and asking, “Wait, is she Commissioner Gordon’s daughter? I thought that was Batgirl.”

Almost every time I opened this book, Cara McGee’s art thrust “Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts into my mind. That might be the oddest critique I’ve ever given to comic art. But it’s true. Not a bad connection to make for a book about a rebellious young girl. Though I imagine it has a lot to do with Ronda Rousey using it in the UFC and WWE.

As a DC Comics buff, I can appreciate the way parts of Black Canary’s history were folded into Ignite. For awhile, it was canon that her mother had been the original Black Canary, and she was taking up the mantle. That’s the case here, as is her being mentored by Ted Grant, a.k.a. Wildcat. Her mother also runs a flower shop called “Sherwood Florist.” Dinah ran a business with the same name in the comics many years ago. There’s also no shortage of Batgirl references. They could very well have had a spin on Birds of Prey in mind.

Black Canary: Ignite is…fine. They had the foresight to record the song, which I love. But the writing? Just fine. The art? Just fine. The girl power vibe? That’s fine too. It doesn’t stand out the way they probably wanted it to with Cabot attached. But I tend to measure the quality of books like this based on whether I’d hand them to my daughter at the appropriate age. And I’d have no problem handing her Ignite.

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

A Batman: Bride or Burglar? Review – What Might Have Been…

TITLE: Batman, Vol. 6: Bride or Burglar?
AUTHOR:
Tom King
PENCILLERS: Travis Moore, Joelle Jones, Mikel Janin
COLLECTS: Batman #3844
FORMAT:
Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $16.99
RELEASED: July 25, 2018

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

This is the part of Tom King’s Batman run where things start to get weird. Like, really, really weird.

Bride or Burglar? is book-ended by two strong single issues. But in between, King starts needlessly messing around with space-time. He also plants some seeds for Heroes in Crisis that, like much of that ill-conceived event comic, are needlessly awkward and forced. There’s one bit that’s downright blasphemous. From a quality standpoint, this is the lowest the series has dipped up to this point.

But let’s start by focusing on the positives, shall we? And to do that, we have to jump to the last story in this collection…

1. History Lesson
The highlight of the trade is easily Batman #44, which features the titular “Bride or Burglar” story. It sees Selina hunting for a wedding dress as only Catwoman can. But interspersed among the story are actual scenes from Batman and Catwoman’s history that King and Janin make their own, with most of the original dialogue intact. We go as far back to the original Batman #1 in 1940, through the ’50s, on into the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, all the way to the present.

While they do take certain creative liberties, they keep Catwoman’s various different costumes intact. As such, we not only get a sense of how her relationship with Batman has evolved, but how her Catwoman persona has evolved over its lifespan. For history buffs like yours truly, it’s an absolute treat. Story-wise, there’s also a wonderful little moment between Selina and Alfred on the final page.

Tom King’s Batman run has gotten a lot of flack, much of which is justified. But I’ll never knock the way he makes Bruce and Selina’s chemistry radiate off the page. Their familiarity, their intimacy with one another on a strictly verbal scale, is enough to make you believe they love each other, and perhaps should be married.

2. Who is Bruce Wayne?
Jumping back to the start of Bride or Burglar, Batman #38 introduces us to one of the most unlikely villains in all of Batman lore. I won’t spoil the specifics of who it is, but the character’s M.O. is that he models himself after Bruce Wayne. He essentially wants to become Bruce Wayne, which naturally puts Batman in a rather awkward spot. It’s been said that many of Batman’s enemies are, at their core, different versions of what Bruce could have become after his parents were killed. This premise takes that idea so literally that it’s actually pretty clever. We also spend some time doing C.S.I. type stuff with Batman and Commissioner Gordon, which is always fun.

Our guest artist for the issue is Travis Moore, joined by colorist Giulia Brusco. I can’t say I fell in love with their work here. But it was serviceable. No harm no foul.

3. The Eternal Vow
Here’s where we start to run into trouble.

In issue #39 we meet the Gentle Man, a warrior from another realm who spends night and day single-handedly fending off an army of monsters called the Hordes of Gehenna. Apparently, some time in the past Batman and Wonder Woman met and fought alongside the Gentle Man. They offered to take up his fight for a day and allow him to rest. But what he neglects to tell them is that minutes on Earth equate to years in this other realm. Thus, Bruce must not only fight alongside Diana for what winds up being about 30 years in relative time, but he must remain faithful to Selina. That’s not necessarily easy when you’re in the trenches with an Amazonian Princess.

While Joelle Jones is very much in her element with the battle scenes, this whole “Eternal Vow” story winds up being stupid and pointless filler on the path to the wedding in Batman #50. Bruce and Selina didn’t need a fairy tale story like this to emphasize the love they have for each other. A huge part of their appeal is that they’re not the fairy tale lovers destined to be together. They’re two orphans who met when their bizarre and violent paths happened to cross, and they fell into a unique kind of love. That’s all you need with them.

Furthermore, I don’t buy that Bruce comes out of that realm the same person. Yes, he’s Batman. But that’s not a get-out-of-jail-free card for crap like this. Both he and Diana would be shells of their former selves. Nearly unrecognizable to anyone who knew them before.

As if that weren’t enough, Tom King has trouble writing Wonder Woman. Her dialogue is acceptable, but very weird. At this point, she’s been an active hero for years, right? But King writes her as if she’s just stepped out of Themyscira. It’s needlessly off-putting. And sadly, Diana isn’t the only Justice Leaguer to get a bad shake here…

4. Crazy Love
In “Everyone Loves Ivy,” Poison Ivy is able to gain control over the minds of everyone on the planet, except for Batman and Catwoman, who are able to fight it off using comic book science. Thus, it’s literally them against the world.

I like parts of this idea. It puts Ivy over huge, as she becomes a Justice-League-level threat, and is ultimately victorious. How she went about gaining the mind control is believable. The way they beat her is a little hokey, but acceptable given the parties involved.

Mikel Janin is back for these issues, and he really knocks it out of the park with all the greenery and foliage this story requires. Rarely has a Poison Ivy lair looked so good. I also give King and Janin credit for showing us what would actually happen if Superman full-on punched Batman in the face. It ain’t pretty, folks.

Sadly, I was yanked out of the story rather abruptly during the first issue. Ivy attempts to use the Flash against Batman. Barry Allen runs at him, or more specifically at Alfred, using his super-speed. Batman knocks him out with a single punch, effectively an inexplicably knocking him out of super-speed. What’s worse, this happens three more times in the following issue. Not just to Barry, but to Wally West and Kid Flash. Apparently Catwoman is also inexplicably capable of defeating the Flash with a single blow…

Bull. Shit.

I normally shy away from profanity. But this one deserved it. Shame on both Tom King and the Batman editorial team. You don’t get to turn the Flash and his supporting cast into a gag because you aren’t creative enough to find a better way to neutralize them. This is especially offensive in hindsight, given what King does to Wally in Heroes in Crisis.

In the end, Heroes in Crisis was the master this story served. It planted the seed (no pun intended) for Ivy’s role there. As such, her motivation involves a specific trauma from The War of Jokes and Riddles that we never saw, and thus can’t connect with as easily. So when the story tries to pivot and make her a victim, it fails because despite that trauma, she still took over the damn world. To an extent, she just made victims out of billions of innocent people. So you’ll pardon me if I’m rather unsympathetic.

5. The Verdict
Bruce proposed to Selina in Batman #24. I’m assuming by that point the knew the wedding was going to be in issue #50. So they had 25 issues to fill before the big pay-off. Some of the storytelling was very organic, i.e. the one with Talia al Ghul from Rules of Engagement. “Bride or Burglar” worked very well. The stuff with Superman and Lois Lane was fun.

But then you’ve got stuff like “Eternal Vow” and “Everyone Loves Ivy,” which are somewhat apropos, but still bizarre choices to fill that gap. It seems like we could have spent at least some of those issues figuring out how Selina adjusts to being in Batman’s inner circle. What sort of changes does it require of her? Are Batman and Catwoman essentially the new Dynamic Duo of Gotham City? What about Thomas and Martha Wayne? What was their wedding like? And how does Bruce think they’d react to his choice for a bride?

This obviously isn’t going to be the status quo forever. So why not mine this wedding stuff for as much character exploration as possible? They could still have told fun and compelling stories along the way. But instead we’re left with a feeling of missed opportunities, and the nagging question of what might have been.

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, and The Rules of Engagement.

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

 

A Batman: The War of Jokes and Riddles Review – Or So We’re Told…

TITLE: Batman, Vol. 4: The War of Jokes and Riddles
AUTHOR: Tom King
PENCILLERS: Mikel Janin, Clay Mann
COLLECTS: Batman #2532
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $19.99
RELEASED: December 13, 2017

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

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The War of Jokes and Riddles is not what I expected. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But you come into it anticipating a big, bloody, multi-layered brawl between comic book supervillains. What we get is more character-driven. I almost always prefer something like that to a story that’s simply about people punching each other. But the vibe we got going into this was that it was akin to a big summer blockbuster. There’s a lot more to The War of Jokes and Riddles. While you’ll get some really great stuff, it’s not a hotbed of fighting and explosions.

In the early days of Batman’s career, the unthinkable happens. After losing to Batman so many times, the Joker no longer finds the world funny. Recognizing a similar problem in himself, the Riddler proposes an alliance to kill the Dark Knight once and for all. When the Joker gives him a violent rejection, all out war breaks out. Both the Joker and the Riddler recruit different villains to their side, with Gotham City as their battle field. The winner earns the right to kill Batman. How can our hero stop a war that’s being fought over him? And what happens to the city caught in the crossfire?

I like Joker and Riddler as rivals. They both have mischievous and playful sort of motifs. So it makes sense they’d want to outdo each other. Factor in each one having their own faction of villains, and the scope of this story becomes huge. They could very well have done a bunch of tie-in issues where the different characters fight each other. Scarecrow vs. Mad Hatter, Solomon Grundy vs. Killer Croc, Two-Face vs, Scarface, etc. Given how people gobble up Batman stuff, you’d think that would have been an easy cash-in.

Instead, we stay in the pages of Batman. That approach has it’s advantages, of course. But as a result, what feels like a very expansive story winds up being confined. Much is left to exposition. We gloss over the whole recruitment process, and why certain characters choose Joker or Riddler’s side. We don’t see most of the big battles. We’re told what territory each side has. While there’s something to be said for not getting bogged down in too many details, it seems like half the fun of a story like this is watching all the characters butt heads. That’s a giant missed opportunity.

We do, however, see Deathstroke vs. Deadshot. Sort of. In theory, it’s a hell of a fight. But even that fails to deliver, as it’s jammed so tightly into the second half of issue #28. What’s more, the fight stretches logic pretty thin even by comic book standards. The two initially try to snipe each other, but on their first and only shots, their bullets collide. They then proceed to fight for five days, killing 62 people in the process. I get the artistic advantage of leaving it to the reader’s imagination. But they could have dedicated an entire story to Deathstroke vs. Deadshot. This fight could be an event comic on its own. So to be told about it instead of seeing it is frustrating.

On the plus side, almost everybody looks great. Mikel Janin gives us an almost twisted blend of realism and caricature. His Joker, for instance, has a pointed nose and in this story sports an exaggerated frown. But the art is so detailed and the colors so gorgeously rendered that it evokes real life. It’s often fascinating to look at, especially because his Joker seems heavily influenced by Brian Bolland’s work on The Killing Joke. The one character hurt by this approach is the Riddler, who inexplicably looks like John Cena.

Author Tom King frames The War of Jokes and Riddles around Bruce Wayne’s present-day marriage proposal to Selina Kyle. He tells her this story, as he apparently did something horrible during the war that could effect her decision to marry him. The reveal is a good one and makes sense.

But there’s also a larger issue that the story touches on, but doesn’t bring any resolution to. There’s an argument to be made that the real villain in all of this is Batman himself. These two groups of insane people are waging war over HIM. While they’re fighting to decide who gets to kill him, dozens of innocent people are being killed simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. In telling Selina this story, he’s trying to get absolution for something horrible he supposedly did. But it seems like he should want forgiveness for his part in all this. Although to be fair, the King does touch on something like that in the final scene…

Bruce also makes every effort to bring the violence to a halt, including the bizarrely entertaining dinner sequence that makes up the entirety of issue #29. Bruce Wayne invites virtually his entire rogues gallery into his home for a big, fancy, multi-course meal. The idea is for Bruce to servers a mediator and bring things to a resolution. The visual spectacle of seeing all these comic book supervillains together in a normal environment is almost worth the cover price on its own. It reminds me of one of the Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale Batman books. But then we dive deeper with both Joker and Riddler. How they’d kill Batman, and what they think of each other. You’ve also got the internalization of Bruce as he sits between them and listens to it all, silently and subtlety trying to maneuver Gotham out of harm’s way. At face value, the whole thing is almost absurd. But once you dive into it, it becomes one of the most delightful Batman character studies of the last decade.

Janin is also on fire in this issue. He has to draw three characters in the same position for several pages. But despite having to draw several consecutive panels of, for instance, the Joker sitting in a chair eating dinner (shown below), there’s almost no panel duplication. There’s a natural flow to it. You believe their body language. It’s beautiful.

Stuck in the middle of all this is D-list villain Kite Man. He becomes the unlikely focus for two interlude issues drawn by Clay Mann. As he plays a role in the finale, it’s called for. It also doubles as an origin story. King tries to set him up as a relatable, down on his luck father who has fallen in with a horrible crowd and pays the ultimate price. I like how King incorporates him toward the end. But I’m not sure we needed two full issues dedicated to Kite Man. Issue #27 gives us all we need, so issue #30 feels mostly like filler. King also attempts to create the catchphrase: “Kite Man. Hell yeah.” Doesn’t work.

The War of Jokes and Riddles wound up being a mixed bag. We didn’t get a war as much as we got moments from a war. The beginning, the end, and the important moments in between. That doesn’t fill all of our dramatic needs in terms of this being a big, violent, bloody fight between crazy people. At one point we see a  bunch of pictures of people who’ve died. But we don’t see where or how they died. There’s a frustrating gap there which leaves you wanting more than the book delivers.

On the flip side, this is some of the best work Mikel Janin has ever done. The War of Jokes and Riddles should absolutely be turned into one of those oversized hardcovers DC puts out. It deserves to be admired for years to come. Tom King also gives us his best character work yet. He illustrates a tremendous understanding of how Batman, the Joker, and the Riddler think. So when he puts them together it feels very genuine. It’s the same kind of magic that made The Vision work so well.

King does have the magic in him, doesn’t he? It’s just a question of how often we see it.

For more of Tom King’s Batman, check out Vol. 1: I Am Bane, Vol. 2: I Am Suicide, Vol. 3: I Am Bane, and Batman/The Flash: The Button

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition.

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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 #50 Review – The Dark Knight Returns

Batman #50, 2016, cover, Greg CapulloTITLE: Batman #50
AUTHOR: Scott Snyder
PENCILLERS: Greg Capullo, Yanick Paquette.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $5.99
RELEAED: March 23, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers ahead for Batman #50.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

What’s the deal with these guys and big Batman robots?

I credit Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, and everyone who’s worked on this Batman run since 2011 with thinking big and not being afraid to take chances. They’ve created something that’s helped define the character for the 21st century. But good lord, these guys have some kind of hard on for Batman and big robots.

In issue #11, when Batman is fighting the Court of Owls as they invade the Batcave, he’s in a big robot. In issue #36, when Batman fights Superman, who’s fallen victim to Joker’s mind control, he’s in a big robot. When Jim Gordon takes over as Batman, half the time he’s in a big robot.

So of course, in the penultimate issue of their run, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo couldn’t resist putting Batman in a big robot as he does battle with Mr. Bloom. But not just any robot. A giant robot. A big Bat-Megazord. Yuck.

Batman #50, Greg Capullo, page 2But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. For the first time since his brutal war with The Joker, Bruce Wayne is Batman again. The deadly Mr. Bloom has Jim Gordon and the GCPD on the ropes, having given his deadly “seeds” to countless Gothamites. Now the true Dark Knight must return to once again vanquish the villain and save his city. But is it already too late?

This issue has a really good hook. When you open it, your eye is immediately drawn to the various Batsuits (shown left). Without any text, that shot says a lot. It gives us a great sense of history as we move forward into a new era. And of course, they just had to get a big Batman robot in there… *grumbles*

Mr. Bloom turned out to be a better villain than he initially seemed. On the surface he seems to be an odd hybrid of Poison Ivy and Scarecrow, with a touch of Joker mixed in. But at heart he’s an anarchist, fed up with the system and determined to go to unspeakable measures to restore the “natural” order of things. Bloom’s identity is left ambiguous here, which is an idea I can only wish Snyder had applied to The Joker. (Sorry folks, I’ve still got Zero Year issues.) I’m not sure how well Bloom would hold up to repeated appearances, if that’s indeed in the cards for him. But for now, he’s a villain worthy of Batman’s grand return.

Duke Thomas has gotten a nice spotlight in this story. Near the end of the issue Snyder begins to close the arc he started with Duke in Zero Year. Between what we’ve seen in both Batman and We Are Robin, he’s become a really interesting character. I can only assume we’ll see him again in Batman #51, which is our creative team‘s last go-around with The Dark Knight.

Batman costume, Batman #50, Greg CapulloStill, while Bruce’s return is drawing the readers in,andDuke beignets come into his own as a hero, the true hero of Batman #50 is Jim Gordon. And that’s how it should be. Despite being woefully ill-prepared for the role of Batman, Gordon never stopped pushing back against the odds. And in the end, it is he, not Bruce Wayne, who risks it all and finally defeats Bloom.

Near the end of the issue, we learn Gordon is even more noble than we thought in his efforts as Batman. It wasn’t just about answering the call for Gotham. For Gordon, it was also about letting his friend finally rest while someone else took the load on. That sentiment speaks volumes about Gordon and his relationship with Batman. It’s even hinted he knows Bruce’s secret, which is fine. It remains unspoken between them, as many things are.

For his return, Batman sports a new costume (shown above). I’m a fan. The shades of blue in the cape and cowl, and the yellow outline around the Bat symbol are a nice tribute to what’s come before. I also like the little sneer Batman has on that first splash page.

As we see Mr. Bloom’s downfall, Gordon has a monologue about who and what Batman is. The gist of it is that while Batman can’t necessarily fix Gotham’s deepest-rooted problems, he inspires its citizens by believing in them. Snyder writes a great line with:”He’s the superhero who sees us as the heroes we can be.” I won’t say it’s the best Batman sentiment I’ve ever heard, but it’s still pretty damn good.

Batman #50, 2016After our main story, Yanick Paquette tags back in for an epilogue, where we essentially return to the status quo. It’s a welcome return, considering the work he did last issue. In addition to a nice little reunion between Batman and Jim Gordon, and perhaps a bit of foreshadowing with Duke, we get a moment of heartache with Julie Madison and a brief glimpse of the Bruce Wayne that could have been. The Bruce Wayne who died so Batman could return. It’s as fitting an ending as we could have gotten for “Superheavy.”

While I can’t say I’m a fan of everything I saw in this issue. But Batman #50 is a $5.99 issue that was worth the cover price. Big robots or not, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have been hugely impactful on the Batman mythos, and in a sense it’s sad to see them go. Thankfully, we’ve got one issue left…

Image 1 from gamespot.co,. Image 2 from geeklyrant.com. Image 3 from bleedingcool.com.

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