Tag Archives: Robin

A Batman: The Rules of Engagement Review – Woundmates

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

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

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

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

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

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

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

1. A Walk Through the Desert

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

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

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

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

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

2. Double Date

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

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

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

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

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

3. Woundmates

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

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

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

4. A Deeper Connection

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

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

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

5. The Verdict

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

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

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

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Batman and…Rattle?

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Let this post serve as the official announcement that this July I’m becoming a father to a baby girl. Parenthood has already brought virtually every emotion on the spectrum straight to my doorstep, and the baby isn’t even here yet. This is going to be a wild ride, folks.

I’m not sure how fatherhood will, if at all, effect what I put in this space. I don’t necessarily want PI to become a “dad blog” in the traditional sense. However, having now been introduced the the adorable and often weird world of baby clothes, I simply couldn’t resist sharing something I spotted at Target last month…

Okay, so it’s obviously a Batman onesie. And hey, who can’t see the appeal in that? I’ll say this: I’d rather my daughter wear this than one of those pink Barbie lookin’ Batman outfits. Don’t let them tell you you’ve got to wear pink because you’re a girl, kiddo! You be your own hero!

But what really caught my eye about this thing, and what’s kept it in my mind all this time, is the rattle. It’s obviously supposed to look like Robin, but…what a weird representation of a character that’s supposed to be Batman’s kid sidekick!

“Kiddo! That’s not what sidekicks are for! I can hear his brains rattling around in there!”

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Panels of Awesomeness: Batman by Mark Bagley

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

THE ISSUE: Batman #688

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Astonishing Art: Robin by Marcio Hum

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

My favorite Robin costume is the original one from 1940. The “pixie boots” costume, with the bare legs and the yellow cape. It may very well be the the most illogically flamboyant costume in the history of superhero comics. Especially in the context of Batman’s world. But its become iconic as the decades have gone by, no matter how much certain creators have tried to sweep it under the rug.

That’s why I love this piece by Brazilian artist Marcio Hum so much. It shows us the character in what may currently be his most popular (not to mention outrageous) incarnation from Teen Titans GO! It’s a really fun contrast with the classic Robin. Plus, the pencil sketch background makes the costumes bright colors pop that much more.

Hum has drawn similar pieces for Cyborg, Starfire, Raven, and Beast Boy. They can be found on his Instagram. Hum is also the designer of Mini Co Collectibles.

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

Astonishing Art: Batman ’66 by Kevin Maguire

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

If you’re a comic book fan and you don’t know the name Kevin Maguire, then shame on you. He’s one of the all-time greats, and draws some of the most expressive and flamboyant characters you’ll ever see. He’s perhaps best known for his work on the original Justice League International series, which ties in nicely with what we’re looking at today.

Maguire’s most famous work from JLI, if not his career overall, is the cover for the first issue. You’ve got all your heroes together looking out at the reader, with Guy Gardner drawing focus at the bottom center. Since the issue’s release in 1987, Maguire has done seemingly countless take-offs of this cover. If you see him at a convention, or simply Google him, you’ll see a bunch of different versions with a bunch of different characters. Not just DC characters, either. You’ll see Marvel characters, and even a print dedicated to the various incarnations of Doctor Who. It’s all amazing.

A few years ago, I had the chance to meet Mr. Maguire and purchase a print from him, which is still hanging in my office now. There were no shortage of choices. But this one caught my eye, and is the subject of today’s “Astonishing Art.”

(In the interest of full disclosure, the print I have actually has a white border with black text. But the image itself is the same.)

I picked this Batman ’66 piece not just because of my soft spot for the show, but because of how well Maguire captured the spirit of some of the characters. Look at Robin, for instance. He’s got that gloved fist tucked into his palm, as we so often saw Burt Ward do on-screen. Frank Gorshin’s Riddler looks delightfully manic as always. And then you’ve got Victor Buono’s King Tut, who’s every bit as animated here as he was on the show.

One thing I’ve always been curious about is why Egghead, the Vincent Price character, is the only character other than Batman making eye contact with the viewer. Why him?

And in the Guy Gardner spot? Who else could it be, but Batman himself? I love that pose too. Paired with Robin’s, it makes it seem like the whole group is about to break into a classic WHAP! BIFF! OOF! slugfest.

Man, I miss Adam West…

Email Rob at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com, or follow Primary Ignition on Twitter.

Epic Covers: Gotham Knights by Brian Bolland

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

When you hear the name Brian Bolland, especially in the context of Batman’s world, you think of The Killing Joke. That’s understandable. Nearly 30 years later, DC still goes to great lengths to make sure none of us forget it.

But Bolland has revisited the Dark Knight at various points since, usually via cover work. Such was the case in late 1999/2000, when DC called on him to do the covers for their new Batman series, Gotham Knights. Between April of 2000 and January of 2004, almost every issue of Gotham Knights was adorned with a Brian Bolland cover. Thus, Bolland got to cover a lot of ground he likely wouldn’t have otherwise been able to. We saw him draw characters like Nightwing, Huntress, Spoiler, and even Cassandra Cain as Batgirl. While Gotham Knights was essentially a third string series, during that timeframe is boasted some of the best covers in all of comics.

While great many of them would most certainly fit into the “epic” category, I’ve picked my five favorites for this space today.

Issue #18 – Aquaman and the Giant Penny.

Brian Bolland is widely known as the man who drew Barbara Gordon getting shot and paralyzed by the Joker. So when one thinks of his art, the word “funny” doesn’t often come to mind. And yet, here we are.

Gotham Knights #18 is about Batman summoning Aquaman for help retrieving some Batcave artifacts that went underwater after the big earthquake in Cataclysm. Bolland uses this premise to to get a little cutesy with iconic Batcave set piece. Aquaman is a character that gets played for laughs a lot. But what I appreciate about this piece is that it’s not necessarily making fun of Arthur, or using the whole “he talks to fish” bit. Arthur is in on the joke. Bolland doesn’t draw him in a cartoony way, but the combination of the shrug and the expression on his face almost evokes a Looney Tunes vibe. It’s difficult not to smile when you see this thing.

Issue #25 – Batman in Handcuffs.

Most people associated those bladed gauntlets with Batman, and that iconography is what makes this image work.

Gotham Knights #25 tied in with the Bruce Wayne, Murderer? storyline going on at the time, which saw Bruce go to prison. Bolland captured the spirit of that story perfectly by placing Batman in handcuffs. And don’t discount the iconic symbolism of those either. For better or worse, handcuffs are a symbol of American justice. With this relatively tight image, Bolland tells us that Batman is now entrapped within the system he’s supposed to be serving.

Issue #32 – The Grandfather Clock

I wouldn’t call this a famous image. But it’s gotten a decent amount of additional exposure over the years. It’s easy to see why.

While issue #25 took place as the Murderer? storyline was beginning, Gotham Knights #32 was part of the wrap up. It showed us 24 hours in the life of Bruce Wayne/Batman. So it’s fitting that Bolland’s cover show is the grandfather clock, the entrance to the Batcave. The unofficial threshold between billionaire playboy and caped crusader. And you have the great juxtaposition of both identities standing back to back. An awesome cover for an awesome issue.

Issue #43 – Batgirl Debuts

Another piece that got a good amount of play after the fact. Bolland delivers an epic tip-of-the-hat to the classic Carmine Infantino cover for Detective Comics #359 from 1967, Batgirl/Barbara Gordon’s “million dollar debut!” The classic never dies, kids.

There’s a sentimental aspect to this one, of course. Bolland wasn’t very nice to Barbara Gordon in The Killing Joke. So for him to render here like this, in her crowning moment, is pretty cool. It’s almost a sense of justice for the character. Though ironically, the issue was more about Jason Todd than Barbara herself.

Issue #45 – Man-Bat’s Close Up

Oddly enough, I remember not liking this one when it came out. It’s so damn gruesome and detailed. Look at the nose. The ears. The fangs.

But of course, that’s the point, isn’t it? There aren’t a lot of epic Man-Bat covers. But this one definitely fits the bill.

This one also has a great Universal monster movie vibe to it. Between the lighting from below, the positioning of the head and neck and the wide-eyed expression, it brings to mind the promotional art for the original Wolfman or Mummy movies.

Email Rob at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com, or follow Primary Ignition on Twitter.

 

Titans Trailer Reaction: F**k Batman???

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

The trailer for the upcoming Titans TV series, based on the DC Comics characters, dropped today. And, yeah…this is happening…

*ehem* Okay. So, let’s break this down to pros and cons. And yes, unfortunately, there are more cons than pros at this point.

Pros:

– I actually like the idea of Raven seeking out Dick Grayson, and the genesis of the team sparking from there. But what’s Dick’s job? Is he a cop, as he was in the comics for awhile? A reporter?

– Brenton Thwaites, who plays Dick, seems like a solid choice for the role. He looks damn good in that costume. Teagan Croft (Raven) reminds me a lot of Chloe Grace Moretz. Though that’s neither a pro nor a con, really. Just a thing…

– I’m intrigued by the little glimpses of Hawk and Dove.

Cons:

– Very dark and dismal. You’d think DC would have learned their lesson after Batman v Superman, and all that Zack Snyder crap. Apparently not. This looks like Riverdale with superhero costumes.

Though in all fairness, Riverdale is a successful show. I guess darkness is what moody teenagers want to see. I ate up that kind of content when I was in my late teens and early 20s. But that doesn’t leave the rest of us with much.

– Why is this trailer rated TV MA? If they want Dick Grayson to be angsty, then make him angsty. But “F**k Batman” is a little on the nose, isn’t it? Not to mention tacky.

– Early set photos of Anna Diop’s Starfire costume caught a lot of flack. Admittedly, they looked pretty bad. She looked like a space hooker. She still kind of looks like a space hooker, to be honest. But consider her costume from most of the source material. They were almost screwed either way.

Still, I’m actually willing to wait and see how she looks in the show. My problems with this trailer have less to do with how the characters look, and more how the show itself looks.

– That “Madness” chorus is going to be stuck in my head for days…

Email Rob at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com, or follow Primary Ignition on Twitter.