Tag Archives: Robin

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

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

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Weekly Comic 100s: Star Wars Stuff, Batman/Superman,

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

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Tacked an extra one down on the end here. The most recent issue of Superman. But of course, in the spirit of the Rise of Skywalker hype, we begin with Allegiance

TITLE: Star Wars: Allegiance #3
AUTHOR: Ethan Sacks
ARTISTS:
Luke Ross, Lee Loughridge (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by Marco Checchetto.
RELEASED:
October 23, 2019

Leia, Rey, and some of the Resistance are still on Mon Cala in this issue. Because it’s largely an underwater planet, Leia has to wear the equivalent of a scuba suit. Imagining an older Carrie Fisher in an outfit like that is…weird.

The “B story” in Allegiance has been about Finn, Poe, and BB-8 stealing weapons for the Resistance. Sacks writes their chemistry very well. Well enough, in fact, that I felt a pang of sadness that they didn’t end up being romantically involved. Yeah, I was on that team.

No Kylo Ren in this issue. Bummer.

TITLE: Star Wars #73
AUTHOR: Greg Pak
ARTISTS: Phil Noto, Clayton Cowles (Letterer)
RELEASED: October 16, 2019

This volume of Star Wars is going out strong as we head toward its issue #75 finale. Greg Pak knows how to weave the multi-strand rip-roaring adventure, as all of our main heroes fight for their lives.

But for yours truly, the star of this “Rebels and Rogues” storyline has been Phil Noto. He’s been one of my favorite Star Wars artists dating back to the build-up to The Force Awakens. His “sketchy” style is a lot of fun, and he nails all the likenesses. As far as I’m concerned, he’s welcome in this galaxy any time.

TITLE: Batman/Superman #3
AUTHOR: Joshua Williamson
ARTISTS: David Marquez, Alejandro Sanchez (Colorist), John J. Hill (Letterer)
RELEASED: October 23, 2019

Unlike many, I’m not really into the Batman Who Laughs, or much of the Metal stuff. But the premise of that character “infecting” six characters across the DCU, and our two heroes having to solve the mystery of who they are was enough to draw me in.

But the way Williamson has executed it thus far, it’s not so much a mystery as it is them happening upon each victim. It’s still a cool idea. I just wish they’d dig a little deeper into it. On the upside, it’s great to see Marquez drawing the World’s Finest.

TITLE: Action Comics #1016
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS: Szymon Kudranski, Brad Anderson (Colorist), Dave Sharpe (Letterer). Cover by Jamal Campbell.
RELEASED: October 23, 2019

I absolutely adore the framing device for this issue. A Daily Planet reporter does man-on-the-street interviews to recap a fight between Superman and the Red Cloud. Bendis is as good as almost anyone at playing up the journalism element in Superman’s world.

A Szymon Kudranski comic that’s this colorful takes some getting used to. There’s nothing wrong with it. But his M.O. is typically on the dark and gritty side. Type his name into Google Images. You’ll see what I mean.

TITLE: Superman #16
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS:
David LaFuente, Paul Mounts (Colorist), Dave Sharpe (Letterer). Cover by Ivan Reis.
RELEASED:
October 9, 2019

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Superman look quite so…blocky. I know LaFuente’s style is more on the cartoonish side, and generally I like what he turns in. But the Superman we see here looks more like a Superman action figure than the Man of Steel himself.

This issue gives us the inevitable reunion between Superboy and Robin after Jon Kent’s trip into space, which aged him a few years older than Damian. Bendis gives us what you’d hope to see here. The initial awkwardness, some hijinks and a feel-good exit. A strong issue, blockiness notwithstanding.

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Alex Ross Spotlight: Why is the Joker So Skinny?

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

A friend of mine recently introduced me to Quora, which is a fun little way to kill time.

I recently came across the simple question of, “Why is the Joker so skinny?” No doubt, it was inspired by how Joaquin Phoenix’s body looked in Joker.

But it certainly didn’t start there. More often than not, the Joker we see in the comics is drawn as a skinny dude. In that sense, if not many others, Joker followed its source material.

I’ve previously mentioned what I refer to as the Alex Ross Theory of the Joker. I base it on a quote I plucked from Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross. On the very same page as that quote comes this bit of insight into Ross’ take on the character, which he tries to keep somewhat consistent with the original Bob Kane/Jerry Robinson version (shown below).

“…he didn’t start off in the comics as this stick-thin anorexic guy – I wanted to give him the appearance of being long and lean, but also physically powerful, not underweight. He was originally based on Conrad Veidt in the 1928 silent film The Man Who Laughs, and that’s what I’m seeing to capture – the true face of Joker.”

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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.

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.

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