A Batman, Vol.10: Knightmares Deep Dive – Over His Head

TITLE: Batman, Vol. 10: Knightmares
AUTHOR: Tom King
ARTISTS: Travis Moore, Mitch Gerads, Mikel Janin, Jorge Fornes, Lee Weeks, Amanda Conner, Dan Panosian, John Timms, Yanick Paquette
COLORISTS:
Tamra Bonvillain, Jordie Bellaire, Dave Stewart, Lovern Kindzierski, Paul Mounts, Timms, Nathan Fairbairn
LETTERER:
Clayton Cowles
COLLECTS: Batman #6163, #6669
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $17.99
RELEASED: September 11, 2019

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead***

Need to catch up? Boy, have I got you covered. Check out Vol. 1: I Am Gotham, Vol. 2: I Am Suicide, Vol. 3: I Am Bane, Batman/The Flash: The Button, Vol. 4: The War of Jokes and Riddles, Vol. 5: The Rules of Engagement, Vol. 6: Bride or Burglar?, Vol. 7: The Wedding, Volume 8: Cold Days, and Volume 9: The Tyrant Wing.

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

He did it again, didn’t he? That sly son of a…

You’ll recall back in Batman #24, Bruce Wayne proposed to Selina Kyle. Huge deal. Huge. A historic moment for both characters. One that could shake up Batman’s whole world depending on Selina’s answer. But of course, they left us with a cliffhanger.

But when Batman #25 came out, we didn’t get one. What we got was the beginning of The War of Jokes and Riddles, a tale from Batman’s past that he had to tell Selina about before she answered. Issue #24 came out on June 7, 2017. Batman #32, the issue where we finally get Selina’s response, didn’t come out until October 4. We had to wait until fall to get the answer because…um…because DC said so. (Although it was pretty obvious she was going to say yes.)

Fast-forward to December 5, 2018. Batman #60 is released, and another bombshell is dropped. The Batman of the Flashpoint universe, Thomas Wayne, not only survived the events of The Button, but has teamed up with Bane against his alt-universe son. Thomas Wayne vs. Bruce Wayne. Father vs. Son. Batman vs. Batman! The stage was set!

Then in the very next issue we got…no answers. Instead we got the issues collected in this book (with two exceptions that we’ll get to in a later date). We wouldn’t see Flashpoint Batman again until May 1, 2019.

Why DC and Tom King loved making us wait so long for cliffhanger payoffs is a mystery to me. But I’ll say this much: Knightmares is a better book than The War of Jokes and Riddles.

1. I Dreamed a Dream…
Toward the end of the book, we discover Batman is hooked up to a contraption that’s giving him very vivid nightmares. I say that not to spoil anything, but to provide context. Plus, between the Knightmares title and what happens once the book starts rolling, it’s pretty easy to see something’s up. Each collected issue contains one of our hero’s bad dreams.

This is the final volume before we get into the “City of Bane” story, which is an astounding 16 issues long. With that many pages to fill, it’s no wonder it felt immensely padded. Like they were just trying to fill space between plot points. While I consider Knightmares a good read, I’ll argue King starts to do that here. It’s a trend that ultimately forces him to limp into the home stretch. For the most part, these issues work. The “City of Bane” issues don’t.

We kick things off in issue #61, as Batman investigates the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne. The catch? We seem to be in the present day, and young Bruce Wayne is very much present and able to interact with his older self. Obviously it’s a “What if?” story. But it’s not what you might expect.

Travis Moore returns for this story. Once you reach the end, you’ll see how that’s fitting. Colorist Tamra Bonvillain really shines, especially early on. Her use of reds and oranges to depict the lights of Gotham City, contrasted with the deep blacks you’d expect from a Batman story are reminiscent of Francesco Francavilla’s more recent work on the character. That’s damn good company to be in.

2. “They call me MISTER PIG!!!”
Issue #61 is a good start. But here’s where business really picks up. Our sole artist is Mitch Gerads, who almost always does phenomenal work with King. With Batman #62, they create something truly unsettling. At times even horrifying. It opens with our hero hanging upside down in the back of a butcher’s shop, and he’s got some company: Professor Pyg.

And there’s blood. Lots and lots and lots of blood.

I think Professor Pyg, or at least this King/Gerads version of Professor Pyg, is what a lot of fans want the Joker to be like. A horror movie villain with a funny gimmick. Of course, the Joker is so much more than that. But Professor Pyg? As far as that horror villain territory is concerned, he’s got a solid cut of the market share.

This is a really beautiful issue in a twisted sort of way. It’s like a Saw movie with terrifying, horror flick lighting. Perhaps more importantly, when we start the story, Batman is scared. Not that fear gas-induced fear either. He’s genuinely afraid, as any of us would be. Thus, we’re pulled that much harder into the issue. There’s also a lot of confusion on Batman’s end. Why is he there? How did he get there? Why is he unable to hear what Pyg is saying? We follow Batman’s train of thought as he pushes through his fear to defeat his opponent.

And every bit as unsettling as the setting, the villain, and the frantic confusion, is the swerve turn on the final page.

3. Guest-starring…
A Batman/Constantine team-up sounds pretty cool, right? Unfortunately, that’s not what we get here. Not exactly, anyway.

In issue #63, Mikel Janin returns to give us the ending we all wanted for Bruce and Selina. They get married, go on a tropical honeymoon, share big romantic kisses on rainy Gotham City rooftops. All seems well. Then Constantine shows up to tell Batman not only is this a dream, but something awful is going to happen. Remember this is a Batman story, where everybody has dead parents, dead spouses, etc. So even if it weren’t a dream, there’s a 50/50 chance he’d be right anyway.

Why Constantine? I think the logic is “Why not?” Are there characters from Batman’s world that might fit this role better int theory? Sure. But no one so obvious that it ruins anything. I get the sense King just wanted the chance to write Constantine, so he wound up in this issue.

Ditto for the Question in issue #66, in which the framing device is Selina being interrogated about why she left Bruce at the altar. Jorge Fornes is on the pencil here, and he fits a Question story like a glove. Less fitting is Selina smoking a cigarette during the exchange, which I don’t think we’ve seen her do at all in King’s run up to this point. It feels very forced. Like they were looking for that one detail to hit that noir-ish nail on the head, and they just gave her a cigarette because they could.

Issue #66 is also where we start re-treading ground. All this stuff about how Selina sees Bruce? We’ve been reading about it for much of the last 60 issues. There’s no reason to go back there, with the Question no less, unless you’re trying to fill space. It’s a fun issue. But its intentions are clear in hindsight.

Issue #67 consists of one long chase scene, as Batman pursues another masked man across Gotham City. Telling you who the individual in question is would take the punch out of the issue. But it’s worth it for those last two pages. There’s some subtext that you have to read into. But it’s pretty easy to get. Fornes is back for this one, alongside the amazing Lee Weeks. Both those men do a hell of a job capturing that Batman: Year One vibe. Again, mostly stuff we’ve already seen. But there’s still greatness here, in one of the best single issue’s of King’s Batman run.

4. “Make a lane for Lane!”
Amanda Conner does a guest spot for issue #68. As such, it’s not surprisingly we focus mostly on female characters. Superman and Lois Lane are back, as we see what might have been a bachelor and bachelorette party respectively. While Bruce and Clark have a quiet night in, an intoxicated Selina Kyle and Lois most certainly do not. The Fortress of Solitude has never seen that kind of fun…

Yes, King backtracks again here. But if I had to choose one thing for him to go back to, there’s a hell of an argument to be made for the “Super Friends” dynamic. Specifically between Catwoman and Lois Lane. Their dynamic in this issue specifically is sheer joyful and colorful comic book fun. The kind of story that’s practically begging to be adapted into animation. Though if it’s for one of the kids shows they’ll have to cut out the liquor. (Not to mention all the stripping Superman robots.) By God, that almost defeats the whole damn purpose.

The downside? With just three pages left we lose Conner. As her style is so distinct, it’s an abrupt jolt to suddenly switch to fill-in artists. Pun intended: It’s a real buzzkill.

5. “Will You Dance With Me?”
The book closes with, of all things, a dance.

It’s only natural that we close with Bruce and Selina. Especially since almost this entire book takes place in Bruce’s head. While the issue does bounce back and forth between them and a Mikel Janin training scene with Bane and Flashpoint Thomas Wayne, the meat of the issue is in an extended dance sequence. But it’s hardly the Batusi. Yanick Paquette puts out a career issue as the two characters literally slow dance through a dream, through Gotham, through their history.

It’s a positively outstanding, and truly unique usage of the visual nature of the comic book medium. In yet another backtrack, Selina goes through multiple costume changes as she did in issue #44. But in two-page spreads such as the one above, we literally track our characters’ dance steps across the page. The use of sheet music is an absolute stroke of genius, which instantly makes this comic distinct among the thousands upon thousands in Batman’s history.

What’s more, because this is a dream there’s a subtext to it that I really enjoy. The scene is written as Bruce asking Selina why she left him. Her response involves his vow as a child, and how he can never really love her because of his devotion to the Batman, etc. But of course, the question Bruce is really asking is, “Why did she leave me?” Via a dream, he’s venting his own doubts about whether he can ever really love another person. And it ends in pretty much the manner you’d expect such a dream from Batman to end.

But the creme de creme, the moment of moments, comes on the final page of the issue and the final page in Knightmares overall…

Batman friggin’ cries. He doesn’t openly weep. But he cries. It’s not even played up at all. It’s beautifully subtle. Just two little strokes of Paquette’s pencil.

Issues like this are part of what makes Tom King’s Batman run so frustrating. Because he is a good writer. He’s a good Batman writer! He knows what he’s doing. But it feels like he got in over his head. The larger story he was trying to tell got too large and in the end he lost focus. That’s such a damn shame, given how many little gems we find in this run.

Incidentally, the song from issue #69 is one King has used before in his series. Sophie Turner’s “Some of these Days.” It dates back to the ’20s. It’s not required listening. But it’s a great little supplement. I recommend it.

6. Waking Up
There are a few collections in this Batman series that you flat out don’t need to read. Technically, this is one of them. But like Cold Days, it gets a recommendation from me. It’s not an amazing character study altogether. But like Tom King’s Batman run as a whole, it surprises you with moments that are absolute classics.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Weekly Comic 100s: Leviathan Dawn, Star Wars, and More!

***”Weekly Comic 100s” keeps it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Raising a glass to Dan DiDio, who’s gone from DC as of last week.

The way some people are talking about this, you’d think he’d died or something. That’s obviously not the case. But it does feel like the end of an era. DiDio had been with DC for 18 years, starting as a vice president in 2002, then moving up to executive editor in 2004, before becoming co-publisher in 2010.

Coincidentally, 2002 was also the year I started buying comics on a weekly basis. So for yours truly, DiDio is particularly synonymous with DC. I remember reading his old “DC Nation” columns as far back as my college years, God help me.

So here’s to you, good sir. Thank you for the memories.

TITLE: Leviathan Dawn #1
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS: Alex Maleev, Joshua Reed (Letterer)
RELEASED: February 26, 2020

Despite the reveal of Leviathan’s identity being a letdown, Event Leviathan was a fun read. So I’m happy to see Bendis and Maleev back at it.

This issue sees the reformation of a group longtime DC readers will be familiar with. (The cover makes it pretty obvious.) The lineup is an odd assortment. Not characters you’d expect to see working together. But strange teams often make for compelling books.

The only person I might remove from the group is the Question. He’s better as a lone wolf.

TITLE: Star Wars #3
AUTHOR: Charles Soule
ARTISTS: Jesus Saiz, Arif Prianto (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by R.B. Silva and Guru-eFX.
RELEASED: February 26, 2020

This whole “going back to Cloud City” thing is still really stupid. Not quite as stupid as Luke getting a between-movies lightsaber. But close.

But we do get pretty great scene in this issue. One of our villains, Commander Zahra, reveals that the crew of her Star Destroyer consists of those who lost someone close to them on the Death Star. She frames the destruction of the space station as a massive tragedy caused by an act of cruelty from the other side. It’s much like Leia frames the destruction of Alderaan. It’s a really nice switch in perspective.

TITLE: Detective Comics #1020
AUTHOR: Peter Tomasi
ARTISTS: Brad Walker, Andrew Hennessy (Inker), Brad Anderson (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer). Variant cover by Lee Bermejo.
RELEASED: February 26, 2020

The other night a co-worker of mine, about 22-year-old, sees this cover. She then asks me: “Why does Batman look so fancy?” Oye. Kids…

For yours truly, Brad Walker’s stock is rising. Particularly as a Batman artist. He’s not a favorite of mine, per se. But he’s on his way.

Tomasi is doing a religion-themed story with Two-Face. We don’t get into the meat of it. Just a little scene as the issue ends. But I’m a sucker for that kinda stuff. So I’m anxious to see what the “Church of the Two” is about.

TITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #46
AUTHOR: Ryan Parrott
ARTISTS: Daniele Di Nicuolo. Walter Baiamonte (Colorist). Katia Ranalli (Color Assistant), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Cover by Jamal Campbell.
RELEASED:
February 26, 2020

In an issue that features the return of the Ranger Slayer (the cover pretty much gave it away) and the Gravezord, a very tense “sparring session” between Tommy and Jason, and a fight in an asteroid field, Zack and Adam steal the show with a single page of heart-to-heart conversation.

Sadly, via his Twitter Daniele Di Nicuolo has announced he’s ending his Power Rangers run soon. That’s a big loss, as he’s arguably the best artists BOOM! has had on this line. Not sure what issue is his last, but #50 seems as opportune a time as any.

TITLE: Action Comics #1020
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS: John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson (Inker), Brad Anderson (Colorist), Dave Sharpe (Letterer). Variant cover by Lucio Parillo.

Ugh. They dragged Young Justice into this?

Yeah, Action Comics is a little bit of a mess right now. Primarily because Romita is on a cold streak with these last several issues. But also, look at all the heavy hitters we’ve got in this story. The Justice League, the Legion of Doom, Leviathan, and now Young Justice. Metropolis is being decimated. Yet the high stakes aren’t coming across. It almost feels like business as usual. We also have Batman in another big dumb robot suit, which doesn’t help.

But next issue, the fight drags on. And I do mean drags.

TITLE: X-Men/Fantastic Four #2
AUTHOR: Chip Zdarsky
ARTISTS: Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson with Karl Story and Ransom Getty (Inkers), Laura Martin (Colorist), Joe Caramagna (Letterer).
RELEASED: February 26, 2020

What’s surprising me is how political this book is. Not in a real-world sense. But we’ve got the X-Men on their little island nation of Krakoa, and the fallout that comes from the Fantastic Four “invading.” Then we’ve got Doctor Doom on Latveria, and the risk of starting a war with Krakoa. The scope seems so much bigger than you’d think it would be.

Valera Richards refers to Doctor Doom as Uncle Doom? Well, it’s not like she was ever going to have a normal childhood…

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

Weekly Comic 100s: Star Wars Finale, Batman/Superman, The Question

*”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

TITLE: Star Wars #75
AUTHOR:Greg Pak
ARTISTS: Phil Noto, Clayton Cowles (Letterer)
RELEASED: November 20, 2019

A fine way to end the series. Great pacing, mixed with good character work and some nice action scenes. Once again, Greg Pak and Phil Noto shine a glowing spotlight on Chewbacca and C-3PO. What’s more, they find a way to subtly weave the tragedy of Darth Vader into everything. (See the closing page.)

In particular, I’m sad to see Pak go. He’s proven here that he knows how to tell a good Star Wars story. And as we’ve learned through a couple of the recent movies, that’s not something everyone can do.

TITLE: Batman/Superman #4
AUTHOR: Joshua Williamson
PENCILLER:
David Marquez, Alejandro Sanchez (Colorist), John J. Hill (Letterer)
RELEASED:
November 20, 2019

In this issue we learn the identities of the six “Jokerized” heroes, a.k.a. the “Secret Six.” They didn’t play it up as a mystery the way I hoped they would. It was essentially reveal after reveal after reveal. A disappointing execution for what is still a compelling story concept.

Can we come up with a nickname for the Batman Who Laughs? Saying the whole thing every time makes for awkward dialogue. (“Don’t listen to the Batman Who Laughs, Donna!”) If this guy’s sticking around for the long haul, that’s something that needs to be fixed.

TITLE: Batman #83
AUTHOR: Tom King
ARTISTS: Mikel Janin, Jordie Bellaire (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer)
RELEASED: November 20, 2019

This is the issue where Bruce finally discovers what’s happened to Alfred. Keep in mind it happened back in August. That tells you all you need to know about whether they’re padding this thing out…

As a framing device, the issue uses a recording of Alfred. I always like when writers use Alfred’s journal like that, so King’s twist on it was cool. Janin has the unenviable, yet in the end quite successful task of showing us Batman grieving for several pages.

I’ve been ready for this climactic battle for awhile now. So let’s get on with it, shall we?

TITLE: Something is Killing the Children #3
AUTHOR: James Tynion IV
ARTISTS: Werther Dell-edera, Miquel Muerto (Colorist), Andworld Design (Lettering)
RELEASED: November 20, 2019

After a very strong opening page, and our longest scene yet with one of the monsters, we spend the bulk of the issue with our heroine, the bad-ass Erica Slaughter. There’s an eight-page sequence with her in a police station that’s a lot of fun.

We still don’t know much about…anything. What these monsters are, who Erica is, who she’s working for, etc. Sometimes that sort of mystery works, sometimes it doesn’t. It works here. The nervous dynamic James has with Erica doesn’t hurt in that regard. It’s not romantic. But it’s cute in its own way.

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A New Suicide Squad #1 Review – New Game, New Line-Up

New Suicide Squad #1, 2014TITLE: New Suicide Squad #1
AUTHOR: Sean Ryan

PENCILLER: Jeremy Roberts
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: July 9, 2014

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

In theory, this New Suicide Squad relaunch is a welcome one. DC has swapped out the likes of Captain Boomerang, King Shark, and James Gordon Jr. for characters with a more of that edgy, cool factor: Black Manta, Deathstroke, and James Gordon Jr. Sadly, there’s an awkward element to this book that negates a lot that coolness.

Government official Vic Sage (a character who was The Question in the pre-New 52 DC Universe) has been put in charge of the Suicide Squad. He recruits Deathstroke, Black Manta and Joker’s Daughter to the line up, an opts to keep Deadshot and Harley Quinn. Amanda Waller sticks around because she “generally knows the ins and outs of how all this works.” Our team’s first mission takes them to Russia to destroy a top secret base. But of course, they’re the Suicide Squad. And things go…well, how they usually go.

New Suicide Squad #1, Vic Sage, The Vic Sage character is clearly meant to be somewhat aloof and in over his head, at least on the surface. He seems largely concerned with the team’s look and marketability, and doesn’t seem to have much in-depth knowledge about them individually. In the opening scene he calls them “this clown girl,” and “the marksman with the red eye thing.” I also particularly enjoyed this line about Black Manta: “He does have a cool look. Plus, he’s got the word black in his name. That never hurts.” He’s got a humorous ineptitude about him that might be interesting when placed next to the ultra-serious Waller.

But what I have a problem with in that opening scene is how the secretary of state talks. It lacks a certain gravity, and thus he comes off a bit like the J.K. Simmons character in Burn After Reading. Also, and granted this is an odd point, but why is there nothing on his desk?

New Suicide Squad #1, Deathstroke, Harley QuinnThe scene where our five team members meet isn’t exactly inspiring either. The art itself isn’t bad, thought Deathstroke is wearing  football pads on his shoulders, and Harley Quinn still looks like a clown stripper. Again it comes down to the dialogue. We’ve got annoying expository name-dropping (“Deathstroke. Can we just get to the business at hand?” “Of course, Manta. I just needed to get everyone’s attention.”), combined with Deathstroke sounding like a dumb jock with a gun. When Harley and Joker’s Daughter get into it over the latter wearing Joker’s face, Slade shoves a gun in Harley’s mouth and delivers the awe-inspiring line: “Shut. Up. Or someone will be wearing your face, Harley Quinn.” By God, what a master of manipulation and intimidation…

Also, Amanda Waller is still skinny. Amanda Waller should not be skinny. Put her on a steady diet of Five Guys, then gimmie a call.

New Suicide Squad #1, Deathstroke, Black MantaAll this being said, New Suicide Squad does have some interesting potential as far as infighting is concerned.. Putting Harley Quinn and Joker’s Daughter together obviously creates an inherent rivalry right off the bat, and injects the series with plenty of “Joker appeal.” This issue also drops a pretty blatant teaser for Deathstroke vs Deadshot, in what could be a fight to determine the world’s greatest assassin. Black Manta also makes for a hell of a wild card. He can certainly shake things up at any time. Suicide Squad vs. Aquaman, perhaps?

New Suicide Squad has, for the moment, piqued my interest. Compared to the old series, there’s more to sink your teeth into right off the bat. But unless Ryan and Roberts sharpen up their execution, as far as I’m concerned this book’ll be on track for the morgue.

Image 1 from comicsalliance.com.

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