Tag Archives: Jock

A Detective Comics #27 Review – An All-Star Let Down

Detective Comics #27 (2014)TITLE: Detective Comics #27
AUTHORS: Brad Meltzer, Gregg Hurwitz, Peter Tomasi, Francesco Francavilla, Mike Barr, John Layman, Scott Snyder.
PENCILLER: Francavilla, Bryan Hitch, Patrick Gleason, Neal Adams, Jock, Ian Bertram, Kelley Jones, Guillem March, Graham Nolan, Jason Fabok, Mike Allred, Sean Murphy. Cover by Greg Capullo.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $7.99
RELEASED:
January 8, 2014

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Oye. We’re barely into 2014 and DC has already put out another overpriced Batman issue. Well that’s just great…

At least this one is somewhat justified. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Dark Knight’s first appearance in the original Detective Comics #27 in 1939. As such, the 27th issue of the New 52′s Detective Comics gathers numerous creators of note to pay tribute to the character with a 96-page collection of short stories celebrating Batman and his legacy. Among those along for the ride are iconic artist Neal Adams, current Batman scribe Scott Snyder, Identity Crisis author Brad Meltzer, as well as the book’s current creative team, John Layman and Jason Fabok. The issue also features pinups by Patrick Gleason, Jock, Kelley Jones, Graham Nolan, and Mike Allred.

Detective Comics #27 (2014), Francesco FrancavillaI can’t say I was blown away by anything I saw here, but Francesco Francavilla’s four page contribution to the book, “Rain,” is pretty cool. Ironically, from a plot perspective there’s really not much to it. Batman saves a mother and child from a car wreck during a rainstorm. But at the very end, Francavilla ties it into not only Batman: Year One, but also his own work on Detective Comics. As a longtime fan, and someone who’s still getting over the fact that Year One is being replaced in current Batman canon by Zero Year, I appreciated the respective nods. But it’s Francavilla’s art that really makes “Rain” the standout story in the book. His color palette in particular is perfect for Batman, and the tone of his world.

On the flip side, if you get a chance, Google the variant cover Frank Miller did for this issue. It’s…*ehem*…interesting.

I was sadly disappointed in Brad Meltzer and Bryan Hitch’s retelling of “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate,” the story Bob Kane and Bill Finger introduced Batman with in the original Detective Comics #27. Via text boxes, Meltzer lets us read the first entry in the “Journal of the Bat-Man,” as we move through the story. That’s an awesome idea, but the execution gets old after awhile. Most of the entry is just Bruce listing the various reasons why he’s becoming Batman. “I do it because people are afraid. I do it because the world needs heroes. I do it because the police can’t be in every alley.” It goes on like that for most of the story. In his previous work at DC, Meltzer has told some really emotional, touching stories, and I understand this is his attempt at doing that again. But the “I do it because…” method gets irritating after awhile.

Detective Comics #27, 2014, Neal AdamsOddly enough, this issue teams Neal Adams, the man who helped redefine Batman after the camp era in the ’60s, with Gregg Hurwitz, the man who’s been overdoing the horror element in Batman: The Dark Knight. But surprisingly, their story, “Old School,” a story which cracks the fourth wall and deals with Batman evolving over the course of his career, goes fairly well. It’s not fantastic by any means, but it’s more satisfying than Adams’ more recent work on the character (see Batman: Odyssey, and a weird zombie story from Batman: Black and White #1). He even gets to draw Bob Kane at the end, which is nice.

We also get a story from Peter Tomasi and Ian Bertram, which seems to take place in the Batman #666 timeline. It sees Damian Wayne/Batman, Dick Grayson/Nightwing, Tim Drake as the pre-New 52 Red Robin, a very elderly Alfred, and Police Commissioner Barbara Gordon celebrating Bruce’s 75th birthday with him. Unbeknownst to them, he ends up going out in costume again, which results in what I deem to be a pretty awkward tribute to The Dark Knight Returns (shown above). Mike Barr and Guillem March bring Phantom Stranger into the mix to give Bruce a look at what the world would be like if his parents hadn’t been murdered, and he hadn’t become Batman. It’s a little too short to be as effective as it wants to be, and Phantom Stranger’s last few lines are a little corny. But it’s a decent attempt. Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy close out the issue with a story set in the future, which deals with Bruce Wayne clones. Meh.

Detective Comics #27, 2014, birthdayWe also get a story from Peter Tomasi and Ian Bertram, which seems to take place in the Batman #666 timeline. It sees Damian Wayne/Batman, Dick Grayson/Nightwing, Tim Drake as the pre-New 52 Red Robin, a very elderly Alfred, and Police Commissioner Barbara Gordon celebrating Bruce’s 75th birthday with him. Unbeknownst to them, he ends up going out in costume again, which results in what I deem to be a pretty awkward tribute to The Dark Knight Returns (shown above). Mike Barr and Guillem March bring Phantom Stranger into the mix to give Bruce a look at what the world would be like if his parents hadn’t been murdered, and he hadn’t become Batman. It’s a little too short to be as effective as it wants to be, and Phantom Stranger’s last few lines are a little corny. But it’s a decent attempt. Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy close out the issue with a story set in the future, which deals with Bruce Wayne clones. Meh.

The issue isn’t all warm fuzzies, mind you. Layman and Fabok also get 27 pages to kick off the “Gothtopia” crossover, which will apparently branch into Catwoman, Batgirl, Batwing, and Birds of Prey. The story brings us a very different Gotham City where crime and unemployment are at all-time lows, the economy as booming, and the city shines in the light of day. Clad in a black and white costume, Batman and his cohorts are honored as heroes. Bruce Wayne has also allowed romance to enter his life via Selina Kyle, who patrols the streets at his side as Catbird.

Detective Comics #27, 2014, Gothtopia*groans* Catbird? Really? That’s the name we’re going with? We couldn’t come up with anything better for an amalgamation of Catwoman and Robin? Do we even need to give the character a new name? The red shirt is a pretty clear connection to Robin. I think we all get that. So couldn’t we just call her Catwoman? Or anything else besides Catbird? That name puts me in the mood to watch reruns of CatDog

In any event, as you might imagine, things in Gotham City aren’t quite as they seem. And being the detective that he is, Batman is already starting to unravel things by the end of the issue. At this point, I can’t say I’m dying to read the next issue, or add the corresponding tie-ins to my pull list. Based on what I’ve seen thus far, this story seems like a “this is all too good to be real” story, which has been done plenty of times before. Heck, it was done in this same issue. Granted, it’s still early, and we can still explore quite a bit of this new world that’s unfolded before us. But thus far I’m not impressed.

And sadly, that’s pretty much my verdict on Detective Comics #27 overall. In all honesty, Batman fans would be better off checking out recent issues of Batman: Black and White if they’re looking for some good short Batman stories. They’re not all winners, but chances are you’ll find at least one  that’s more fulfilling than most of what we see here.

Image 1 from author’s collection. Image 2 from inter-comics.com. Image 3 from 13thdimension.com. Image 4 from uncanny.ch. 

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A Batman #13 Review – The Yellow Jolly Rancher

311310TITLE: Batman #13
AUTHORS: Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV
PENCILLERS: Greg Capullo, Jock
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: October 10, 2012

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

***CAUTION: Spoilers for Batman #13 lay ahead.***

Batman #13 is the first comic book I’ve read in a long time to actually put me in a bad mood.

I was literally snapping at people after I finished it. I don’t know if I’ve ever read a single issue that was so suspenseful, so well crafted, and that hit all the right notes so perfectly, only to botch the payoff in such a catastrophic way.

Batman #13 is the first issue in the Death of the Family storyline that will spread across most of the Bat books for the next two months. It also marks the first time we’ve seen the Joker since Detective Comics #1 last September, when he willingly had the skin on his face removed by the Dollmaker. In this issue he returns to Gotham City, terrorizes Commissioner Gordon, murders numerous police officers, and announces his intention to kill all the member’s of Batman’s surrogate family one by one. His first target: Alfred. That’s right folks, he’s going there. What fans have long speculated has become reality: The Joker (apparently) knows Bruce Wayne is Batman, and the gloves are coming off.

Batman #13, Alfred, The JokerThe issue’s main story by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo is flawlessly built up to a full page reveal where we not only see Mr. J attacking Alfred with a hammer, but we see his new face for the first time. Believe it or not, it’s the same as the old one. Only this time, he’s stretched his old skin out across his head like a Leatherface-style flesh mask. This shocked me…and not in a good way.

Indeed, Snyder and Capullo go full on suspense/horror flick in this issue. Up until the Joker’s reveal, it was working beautifully. They set the mood with a rainstorm, and throw in some signs of the apocalypse metaphors. Then on page 4 we get a beautifully framed long shot of our villain simply standing in a doorway at Police Headquarters, his face shrouded in darkness, while his body is clad in seemingly average repairman clothes. Then he cuts the lights and taunts Gordon, all the while snapping the necks of the other cops in the room. All of this is a wonderful play on humanity’s fear of the unknown. In this scene, not only do we get a crazy person put in the room with us, not only can we not see the crazy person, but we have no idea what the crazy person even looks like anymore! One by one, our safety nets are cut out from under us. It’s a fantastic scene.

Later, we see some classic Joker elements mixed with Snyder and Capullo’s horror formula. We see the Joker cut into broadcast television and do some murderous comedy. Then we see the “I’m going to kill an important person at midnight” routine, which actually dates back to the Joker’s original appearance in 1940. We go back to the Ace Chemical Plant, where the Joker was born. Capullo and the artists turn it into a delightfully rusted and worn setting, in which you can almost hear the creaks and squeals of old metal.

The Joker, Batman #13, 2012These elements all add up to a “what’s the psycho going to do next?” vibe that’s synonymous with some of the best Joker stories ever told. Snyder also keeps the Joker’s sense of humor intact, which has an unparalleled importance in terms of getting the character’s voice right. In this issue we see the both the artist and the anarchist. But the Leatherface mask ruins all of that by pushing the Joker too far in the horror direction. That balance between performer and killer is gone now. On that last page he looks more like a three-way mash up between Leatherface, Pennywise the Clown and The Cable Guy. To an extent, it actually makes him look like more of a generic slasher movie character than the most thrilling villain in all of comics.

When they had the character lose his face last year, the implication seemed to be that he would indeed come back with a more horror-leaning look, perhaps even something akin to what the Dollmaker looked like in Detective Comics. To me, the move was an extension of what Grant Morrison did with the character during his run on Batman. The alternate font in the word balloons, the forced smile akin to Conrad Veidt in The Man Who Laughs, etc. But from a character standpoint, why go to the trouble of having someone surgically remove your face if you’re simply going to steal it back? I understand we’re dealing with a character who defies conventional logic, but that’s a question Snyder will need to answer.

I understand that almost everything is temporary in terms of changes to iconic characters like the Joker. At some point, perhaps even within the Death of the Family story, the Harlequin of Hate will have a fully functioning face again. But I can’t say enough about how much this altered Joker ruined an otherwise beautiful comic book. A lot of people are gushing over Snyder and Capullo’s work on this book, and to an extent they’re right to do so. But me? I was like a kid who thought he was going to the candy shop, but at the last minute somehow ended up in a candy shop filled only with lemon Jolly Ranchers. No one wants a lemon Jolly Rancher, do they? Picking a lemon almost makes you regret even reaching in the bag to begin with…

Image 1 from newsarama.com. Image 2 from comicvine.com.

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A Batman: The Black Mirror Review – Enter James Gordon Jr.

Batman: The Black Mirror, coverTITLE: Batman: The Black Mirror
AUTHOR: Scott Snyder
PENCILLERS: Jock, Francesco Francavilla
COLLECTS: Detective Comics #871-877
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $22.99
RELEASED: November 23, 2011

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

One of the best things a Batman writer can do is establish Gotham City as a character in and of itself. Scott Snyder does this as well as any writer I’ve ever seen, particularly when he’s teamed with Jock in Batman: The Black Mirror.

The book collects two stories. In the title story, a series of murders leads Batman (Dick Grayson) to investigate an underground auction house for items used by Gotham City rogues. The pressing question being, will Dick escape the auction house alive? At the same time, Commissioner Gordon’s son James Jr. returns to Gotham. As it turns out, James has something of a violent history. As Barbara Gordon (Oracle) panics about his return, the Commissioner wonders if his son deserves another chance, or if he has something sinister in mind for the city. In the second story, “Hungry City,” somebody puts a dead killer whale in the middle of a bank lobby. That’s right, an honest to God killer whale! The case leads Dick Grayson into contact with the daughter of Tony Zucco, the man who murdered his parents. How far has the apple fallen from the Zucco family tree? Batman’s set to find out.

Batman: The Black Mirror,  Francesco FrancavillaIn this story, and all Snyder’s Batman stories for that matter, the city has a very distinct feel to it. Snyder, Jock and Francavilla give it an aura that makes you believe characters as outrageous as these could exist there. Very few creative teams have been able to pull that off so effectively.

Fans have known for years now that Jim Gordon has a son. We’ve seen him as a child in various early-years stories like Batman: Year One. Apparently he left Gotham with Jim Gordon’s first wife after their divorce. I had always been interested to see what happened to him. From a creative standpoint, part of me was a bit disappointed to see the character given such a dark twist. Between his divorce, having his daughter paralyzed and his wife murdered, not to mention having the unenviable task of maintaining some degree of order in the most chaotic city in the world, it would have been nice to see something actually go Gordon’s way for once. But alas, like Batman he seems to be cursed. Snyder does a tremendous job keeping you wondering whether James is actually a bad guy. Francesco Francavilla, who handles the pencils for all the Gordon-centered content, does great work too.

Batman: The Black Mirror, Dick Grayson, JockWhat I also enjoyed about Snyder’s work was that he makes a point to have his run be just as much about Dick Grayson as it is about Batman. Whether it’s Dick reminiscing about how his father viewed Gotham while in the circus, his feelings toward the daughter of the man who murdered his parents, or how he feels soaring over  rooftops, Snyder, Jock and Francavilla make Dick look very natural in the Batman role, as opposed to someone who’s simply filling in. That’s something that even more renowned creative teams have had trouble doing.

The quality of Snyder’s work in the world of Batman continues to rise. But this is where it all started. Clearly he’s got a knack for working with these characters, and if he keeps it up he can establish himself as one of the better Batman writers of this era.

RATING: 8.5/10

Image 1 from goodreads.com. Image 2 from wednesdayshaul.com.

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