Tag Archives: Denny O’Neil

A Batman Incorporated: Demon Star Review – Wanted Dead: The Boy Wonder

Batman Incorporated, Vol. 1: Demon StarTITLE: Batman Incorporated, Vol. 1: Demon Star
AUTHOR: Grant Morrison
PENCILLERS: Chris Burnham, Frazer Irving
COLLECTS: Batman Incorporated #0-6
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $24.99
RELEASED: April 8, 2013

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Batman Incorporated is like The Walking Dead, in the sense that it’s much better to read as a trade than in single issues. Unlike a lot of mainstream superhero comics, Batman Incorporated doesn’t take any time to recap things on a month-to-month basis. These days, most of Marvel’s books dedicate at least a paragraph on their title/credits page to reminding readers what’s going on. That’s not to say Batman Incorporated is obligated to do so, but it makes it tougher to simply pick an issue up from the shop and read it. But when you read issues #1-6 one after the other, it’s pretty damn good.

More or less picking up where the previous volume left off (It’s the New 52 now, so Stephanie Brown, Cassandra Cain, and certain other characters aren’t there anymore.), Talia al Ghul has been revealed as the leader of the terrorist group Leviathan. She has placed a bounty on the head of her son, Damian, a.k.a. Robin. Batman benches Damian just as Leviathan strikes Gotham City. But even the Dark Knight doesn’t know how deeply Talia’s insurgents have penetrated the city, and Damian isn’t about to stand by and watch Gotham be torn apart. Though in the end, it will cost him dearly…

Batman Incorporated #1, Chris BurnhamReaders should take their hats off to Chris Burnham for this one. His characters look very vibrant, expressive, and well defined. The various Robin alums actually look like different people, as opposed to a bunch of dark haired clones of varying ages. Plus, he makes the Brett Booth Red Robin costume look kinda cool. Even Brett Booth couldn’t do that. One might argue that his Damian looks a bit too young. He’s supposed to be 10, right? This one looks like he might be seven or eight. Even so, it’s one of the better Damian renderings I’ve seen. He actually looks and acts like a child.

One of the reasons the Batman Incorporated concept works so well is because it makes a certain amount of sense. Looking at it from an in-story perspective, Batman has so many partners, associates and stringers that to not expand like this is almost a waste. Some fans argued that the concept takes too much away from the character’s dark and shadowy mystique to be worthwhile. I understand that notion, and I’m certainly glad we’ve ditched the  pre-reboot “bat-light” suit. But from a character standpoint, it fits with the whole “war on crime” theme, doesn’t it? Putting aside suspension of disbelief, if you’re a man whose crusade against crime has been reasonably successful for several years, why wouldn’t you attempt to do that kind of good on a grander scale? If you buy into the idea of Batman, it makes sense.

Batman Incorporated, Chris Burnham, Batman & RobinUnlike the first volume of Incorporated, the events we see here take place primarily in Gotham City. Pre-New 52, the series sent Batman to places like Japan, Argentina and France, as he recruited new heroes for the group. This portion of the story feels more focused, and more of an emotional core to it, what with the father-mother-son dynamic. I say this portion of the story, because I can only assume this is more or less where Grant Morrison was taking things before the reboot happened. He and Burnham have had to adjust accordingly, but the basic plot is intact. So it doesn’t seem to be a matter of Morrison downplaying the international elements of Batman Incorporated, but rather this being the next chapter in the story. Either way, the events of Demon Star are better than the “recruitment drive” we saw in the first book.

In truth, the international characters in this book are surprisingly pushed to the side in favor of the “usual suspects,” i.e. Nightwing, Red Robin, even Jason Todd. Granted, there’s a milestone moment in the lives of Knight & Squire. But in the context of this book, characters like Batwing and El Gaucho are interchangeable with any other DC hero who has ties to Batman. I find that odd considering Batman Incorporated is supposed to be a global network of heroes.

Batman Incorporated #0, Frazer IrvingThe Demon Star calls upon just enough of Batman’s rich history to add something extra for longtime fans, while not alienating new readers. Characters like El Gaucho and Hood were hidden gems before Morrison dug them up for Batman Incorporated. But he and Burnham also revisit Talia’s entire backstory, and to their credit, they don’t muck it up and “modernize” it like so many creators did with the #0 issues last September. They add their own unique and intriguing elements, but they also incorporate the classic Denny O’Neil/Bob Brown material from her first appearance in 1972′s Batman #411, and allude to some of the classic Neal Adams stuff. There’s even an allusion to Villains United. It’s nice to see this kind of thing, considering these days DC is going out of their way not to mention it.

All in all The Demon Star builds very well. In that sense, it’s one of the better Bat-books we’ve seen since the New 52. It’s also a very effective set up for what we know lays ahead for Damian, and is a fitting next chapter in the romance-turned-rivalry between Batman and Talia. For Batman fans, it’s a can’t-miss.

RATING: 9/10

Image 1 from dccomics.com. Image 2 from comicpow.com. Image 3 from theweeklycrisis.com.

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A Green Lantern #0 Review – Sensationalist Diversity

Green Lantern #0, 2012TITLE: Green Lantern #0
AUTHOR: Geoff Johns
PENCILLER: Doug Mahnke
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: September 5, 2012

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Judging from his first appearance, Geoff Johns, Doug Mahnke and DC Comics are about a decade too late with the story of Simon Baz, the first Arab American Green Lantern.

The stuff they show us as they introduce this new hero is plucked straight from some of the more scandalous and controversial headlines of the past decade, and it has all the subtlety of a wrecking ball. Case in point: On the very first page we see the twin towers up in smoke. On the second, we quickly cut between Simon washing graffiti off a mosque wall, then he and his sister being harassed and beat up, then we see him being racially profiled by security guards.

Get it?

Green Lantern #0, 2012, Simon BazSince being laid off from his auto factory job, Simon has turned to stealing cars to make ends meet. But one night, he gets more than he bargained for when he finds a time bomb in his latest acquisition. The cops take him in for interrogation, and we proceed with a scene that includes the line: “I’m a car thief, not a terrorist!” Then, as they prepare to WATERBOARD this poor sap, a Green Lantern ring (presumably the one lost by either Hal Jordan or Sinestro in last week’s Green Lantern Annual #1) bursts in and saves him.

I don’t think most fans have a problem with superhero comics being made a bit more diverse, and of the two major companies, DC is certainly the one that needs it more. Johns himself even said in a recent interview that there was no Muslim representation in the DC Universe. Considering this is the year 2012, that’s a pretty glaring omission. So I appreciate what they’re trying to do, here. And they story that they’re telling would be great…if it were being told 10 years ago. But in 2012 it feels like a pretty safe story that’s being told more for publicity’s sake. Does this kind of racism still occur today? Absolutely. But there’s a certain cheap quality to hitting us with 9/11 imagery, waterboarding, etc. That’s not to say that it doesn’t do what it’s designed to do. Johns and Mahnke make Simon Baz into a sympathetic character who stands up for what he believes in regardless of the cost to himself. Thus, he’s a perfect candidate to wield a Green Lantern ring. I just wish it wasn’t so obvious that, like Alan Scott being made into a gay character, this is DC changing something and then shouting: “Look at us! Look what we did! We’re diverse!!!”

Green Lantern #0, 2012, title page, Doug MahnkeOne thing I find interesting is the number of parallels between Simon Baz’s first appearance, and John Stewart’s first appearance from back in the early ’70s, when the civil rights movement was still in full swing. This was also at the height of the groundbreaking work being done by Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams. Back then John was far from the straight-laced military man we know today. Like in Green Lantern #0, we see our new hero face corrupt cops. John stops a racist officer from harassing a pair of black men playing dominoes on the sidewalk. He then opens Hal Jordan’s eyes by taking down a racist senator. These are the same sorts of themes we see present in Green Lantern #0, except we don’t have Hal there to have his eyes opened as he sees the world through this new hero’s eyes (though perhaps we will, given time). Corrupt peacekeepers, racist government officials, it’s all still there. It’s presented a bit differently, and perhaps it’s a bit more subdued than it was in the ’70s. But John and Simon would have a lot to talk about.

I suppose the DC fan in me would have liked to have seen the company be a bit more gutsy with this kind of material. I don’t doubt that this kind of thing still happens, but the execution feels dated and overly sensationalized. Had this been printed during the Bush administration, we might have had something a bit more special. Still, it’s nice to see the publisher making an effort to diversify things.

Image 1 from fanboymorphine.blogspot.com. Image 2 from gamespot.com.

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