Tag Archives: Sean Murphy

A Batman #49 Review – The Resurrection Machine

Batman #49, 2016TITLE: Batman #49
AUTHOR: Scott Snyder
PENCILLER: Yanick Paquette
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: February 10, 2016

***WARNING: Full blown spoilers lay ahead for Batman #49.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

We knew this was coming. We knew Bruce Wayne would be Batman again. We even knew how it was coming, because they pretty much told us. And with issue #50 on the horizon, it wasn’t tough to figure out when it was coming. It was just a matter of execution. How would they construct the scene, what chords would they strike, how they’d set the table, etc.

Everything that’s been building for Bruce Wayne since Batman #41 comes to a head in this issue. For the most part, Scott Snyder and guest artist Yanick Paquette deliver on the pay off. But we take some weird, unexpected detours along the way.

Batman #49, Yanick PaquetteQuick history lesson: In Detective Comics #27 (the New 52 one, not the 1939 one), we saw a short story by Snyder and Sean Murphy in which Batman creates a gizmo that allows him to transmit his consciousness into younger clones of himself. Ergo, Batman can (and does) live forever. In Batman #43, Snyder and Capullo introduced this same device into the “Superheavy” plot. As Alfred explained it, the machine could reinsert Bruce’s old memories into his altered mind. As for how this brain-altering gizmo works…some questions are better left unanswered. We’ll file this one under “Comic Book Science.” And within the boundaries of comic book science, this idea makes sense for Batman. He has a contingency plan for seemingly every scenario, including (and perhaps especially) his own death.

In any event, the gizmo had been established, and we knew this was coming. What we didn’t know was coming were the ways the machine would effect Bruce’s mind. Throughout the issue, Snyder and Paquette show us various alternate Batmen in different settings, and how they die. When we open the issue, we’re in a scene where Bruce is the mayor of Gotham City, is married and has a son with Julie Madison, and among his confidants are the Court of Owls and Joe Chill. The idea, as I understand it, is Bruce’s mind isn’t accepting the memories, and thus they’re distorting in different ways. This is incredibly confusing at first, and in my case it took awhile to sink in.

Batman #49, 2016, two-page spreadIn the end, it kind of works. I get what they’re going for. It’s very similar to the “Batman never dies!” theme Grant Morrison did during his run. That’s all well and good. But here’s the problem: We know Batman never dies. Yes, showing us all these Batmen sends a strong message. But I don’t see it as a message that needed to be sent. Considering all that’s happening with Bruce and Alfred, not to mention Jim Gordon being on the verge of grim death (we don’t see any of that in this issue), I’d have kept things in reality, where the true drama is.

And it’s really good drama. Alfred is in full on surrogate father mode, begging Bruce not to return to a life of violence, darkness, and tragedy. Snyder does a fine job bringing Alfred’s love for Bruce to the surface, even pleading with him to let the burden fall on someone else. This scene is believable for almost any incarnation of the Alfred character. There’s also some nice body language in a splash page (shown below) where Bruce finally says: “I’m Batman. Paquette shows is an Alfred wracked with emotional turmoil to the point that his knees have buckled. Meanwhile Bruce, while compassionate, refuses to back down.

Snyder even brings Julie Madison into the climactic scene, having her be the one to turn Bruce back into Batman (i.e. restore his old memories and erase his recent ones). It adds a new dimension to the character that she’s earned, given her rich history. Incidentally, I’m fond of Greg Capullo’s modernized version of Julie, with the tattoos and what not.

Batman #49, 2016, I'm BatmanYanick Paquette makes a fine stand-in for Capullo, who I assume was pre-occupied to drawing the extra-sized Batman #50. He hits all the right notes. Paquette was the original artist for Batman Incorporated. Thus, I found it somewhat fitting that this issue allowed him to draw an alternate version of Batman with a bright and shining Batcave, filled with techies running around, and a gigantic trophy case. I can picture this being what Batman Incorporated would look like eventually, had it continued to grow and expand.

Batman #49 is a winner. Despite the bizarre course it took, it’s every bit the penultimate chapter that “Superheavy” needed. It gave Bruce Wayne’s return to the Batman role the weight it deserves, and gave us a defining chapter in Alfred’s history along the way. But most importantly, Bruce Wayne chose to be Batman again. It had to be that way. He couldn’t have been forced or tricked into it. Even with a fresh start, he still chooses the path of a hero.

Images 1 and 3 from newsarama.com. Image 2 from comicvine.com.

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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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