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.

A Detective Comics #941 Review – The Dead Robin Trope

Detective Comics #941, 2016, coverTITLE: Detective Comics #941
AUTHOR: Steve Orlando, James Tynion IV
PENCILLER: Andy MacDonald. Cover by Yanick Paquette.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: September 28, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Thus far, “Night of the Monster Men” has left me uninspired. Certainly not what I was hoping for after what happened with Tim Drake last issue.

The plot of this Batman/Detective Comics/Nightwing crossover is pretty straightforward. Professor Hugo Strange is unleashes a bunch of giant monsters on Gotham City. All the while, a hurricane threatens to hit the city during the attack. Batman, Batwoman, Nightwing, Gotham Girl, and various other members of the surrogate “Bat-Family” are truly in a battle against he elements. But in the wake of Tim’s “death,” the Dark Knight is having trouble allowing others to take the risks necessary to save lives.

Before we get into this issue, or “Night of the Monster Men” as a whole, let’s talk a little bit about what happened to Tim. Rumors of his demise are greatly exaggerated. During the events of Detective Comics #940, he attempted to sacrifice himself in the battle against Jacob Kane and the Colony. But the mysterious Mr. Oz, who we’ve previously seen interact with Superman, captured him. Now everyone, including Batman, believes Tim to be dead. By and large, the whole thing was well done. The art was engaging. The writing was impactful. It was a nice way to put the character on the shelf for refreshment, while also paying tribute to him.

Batman #1, portrait shot, Greg CapulloBut part of me really wishes they hadn’t done it.

I understand there are only so many routes to take with these  superhero characters. At some point, everybody’s going to have a brush with death. But now, all four characters that have been the official canonical Robin have either been killed off, or thought to be dead by almost everyone in their universe. Even Stephanie Brown, who was only Robin for about a month, has “died” and come back. What’s more, most of it has happened in just the last five years.

Let’s look at the timeline…

* 1988: Jason Todd is killed by the Joker in “A Death in the Family.”
* 2004: After a short stint as Robin, Stephanie Brown, a.k.a. the Spoiler, fakes her death.
2013: Damian Wayne is killed in battle by Heretic.
* 2014: With Batman’s help, Dick Grayson fakes his death and joins Spiral.
* 2016: Tim Drake is captured, presumed killed after a fight with the Colony.

The concept of Robin is pretty hard to swallow. It’s always been fun, but if you look at it in a real world context, there’s a definite creep factor to it. This Dead Robin trope ups that creep factor considerably. What we have here is a man continually enlisting aids from these boys, who eventually age out of their role, and all have the same black hair style. And eventually, they all die violently.

Detective Comics #941, 2016, Nightwing, Gotham GirlAm I getting carried away? Maybe. But at the very least, the storytelling in these Bat-books is getting repetitive. I’ll at least credit Tynion and the Detective Comics crew for doing it better than it’s been done in awhile.

“Night of the Monster Men” feels like it’s going to be an examination of the trust Batman puts in his partners, which he’s reconsidering after what happened to Tim. At one point in this issue, Batwoman tells him he’s in a situation he can’t control. Our hero’s response is: “I refuse to accept that scenario.”

What’s happening in Batman’s head is, thus far, the most interesting element in all of this. The trouble is there isn’t much more to latch on to in terms of meat. At least not yet. The monsters look cool enough, but we see they’re somehow created from cadavers. So while they’re obviously very threatening, we’re not invested in them much more than we would be mindless foot soldiers or zombies. Thankfully, that changes at the end of this issue.

This is my first exposure to Andy MacDonald’s work. But he and colorist John Rauch give everything a nice texture, and make solid use of splash pages and larger panels to show off these Godzilla-ish monsters. Our creators also don’t hesitate to use “They’re not alive? Let’s rip ’em to shreds!” logic when it comes to Gotham Girl fighting them.

“Night of the Monster Men” seems like a summer blockbuster that arrived late. Thus far, like many a summer blockbuster, it’s heavy on the action, but low on substance. As we’re halfway through, that doesn’t bode well. We’ve got some really good talent on these books, so I want to give them the benefit of the doubt. But I don’t have high hopes.

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A Batgirl and the Birds of Prey: Rebirth #1 Review – The Never-Ending Joke

Batgirl & The Birds of Prey: Rebirth #1, 2016, Yanick PaquetteTITLE: Batgirl and the Birds of Prey: Rebirth #1
AUTHORS: Julie Benson, Shawna Benson
PENCILLER: Claire Roe. Cover by Yanick Paquette.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: July 20, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’ve been looking for a reason to write about The Killing Joke, what with the animated movie coming out. I didn’t expect to find it here. But I’ll take it!

Someone is sending information to mafia families using the name Oracle, Barbara Gordon’s handle during her days in a wheelchair. This obviously strikes a personal chord, and Batgirl asks Black Canary to help her investigate. Babs is looking to get the Birds of Prey back together. But Dinah isn’t interested (“I’ve moved on. So have you.”). Still, she tags along for her friend’s sake. They cross paths with Huntress, who inexplicably knows some big secrets. But the identity of this mysterious new Oracle? That’s still a secret.

In reviewing how Babs became Oracle, we flash back to The Killing Joke. We see Claire Roe’s take on some of the famous shots from that story: Joker in the Hawaiian shirt, Barbara getting shot with the coffee mug in her hands, her laying looking up at him. Interestingly, Roe puts Barbara in a tank top and pants, as opposed to the skirt and blouse she was wearing in that story.

Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #1, Killing Joke flashbackI read an article recently on DC’s refusal to put The Killing Joke behind them. Though heralded as a landmark story, it’s unquestionably brutal and cruel. It also spawned an era of creators seemingly trying to mimic The Killing Joke by having female characters face awful acts of violence (see Women in Refrigerators). Yet the story lives on. Why? For the same reason DC won’t give up on Watchmen or The Dark Knight Returns. Name value.

Those three stories were arguably the three tentpole works of the “grim and gritty” movement in the ’80s. If you’ve been into comics at all over the last 30 years, chances are you’ve at least heard of them. In one way or another, they’re masterpieces that changed the industry. So by connecting those stories to their new books, DC creates a bridge to readers that have either left them behind, or simply aren’t reading comics anymore.

That’s one of the reasons why the first several issues of the New 52 Batgirl series weren’t just about Barbara being a superhero again. They were about her recovering, and coming to grips with being able to walk again. Just like in this issue, in 2011’s Batgirl #1 we relived the Joker shooting scene, and went over Barbara’s trauma. Eventually Babs even winds up confronting a nameless henchmen from that story.

I’m not disputing The Killing Joke is a great story, albeit one that inspired a bunch of bad creative choices. I just hope a day comes where we don’t have to go back to it every time Barbara has a new series. There are other stories out there, after all…

Huntress church sceneSo what’s with Dinah not wanting to put the Birds of Prey back together? The New 52 Birds of Prey series wasn’t exactly their highest of highs. But Babs and Dinah are still good friends. Why the cold shoulder?

Huntress makes her first appearance in a church confessional. I’m not as familiar with this version of Helena, but it looks like she’s as much a believer as her pre-New 52 counterpart was. The visual messaging in the church scene makes sense, particularly the shot of her walking out. By that point, you know her mission is to kill mafia hitmen. To say the least, she’s become a lapsed Catholic. You’ll notice this version of the Huntress costume doesn’t include a cross necklace.

The panels in the confessional are lit very interestingly (some shown above). Colorist Allen Passalaqua does great things withthe faint light coming in from the church and the resulting shadows on Helena’s face. The panel where her elbow is on the ledge is the best in the book, giving us an image more natural than what we see in most superhero books.

In contrast, Batgirl has what I’ll call some “mouth issues.” Not Barbara. Just Batgirl. I can’t decide if Claire Roe draws it in a way that’s somehow conspicuous, or if she just came out a little toothy. In certain panels, she almost looks like a buck-toothed Pipi Longstocking in a cowl. It’s one thing if that’s the look she’s going for. I don’t think it is.

Batgirl and the Birds, just a nameIt’s hard to believe, but Birds of Prey turns 20 this year. The group has had a variety of incarnations. But the most successful, at least creatively, have always had two ingredients: Barbara Gordon and Dinah Lance. At its core, Birds of Prey is a buddy superhero series about two women who bonded through their work and found friendship. If you’re missing one of them, you don’t have Birds of Prey. Thankfully, Batgirl and the Birds of Prey has its core intact. Now they simply need to built on top of that. With two female writers and a female penciller, I’m hopeful they build a series unlike any other on the stands.

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A Nightwing: Rebirth #1 Review – Better in Blue

Nightwing: Rebirth #1, 2016, coverTITLE: Nightwing: Rebirth #1
AUTHOR: Tim Seeley
PENCILLER: Yanick Paquette. Cover by Javier Fernandez.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: July 13, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This issue should really be called Nightwing Returns. For yours truly, that’s what it is. Not just in terms of Dick Grayson putting the costume on again. It’s as simple as him wearing blue.

I can’t even tell you how hung up I was on that New 52 costume. I’ve discussed this before, but it bears repeating: Nightwing should never wear red on a permanent basis. Red is a Robin color. In switching from Robin to Nightwing, the change from red to blue was more important than many people realize. The shift to the opposite end of the color spectrum was a visual representation of his shift toward independence. To put him in red moves him back toward Batman, intentional or not. Plus, when you realize Jason Todd, Tim Drake, and Damian Wayne all wear red and have dark hair, the whole legacy of Robin starts to look like a creepy cult. All in all, everything is better when Dick is in blue.

With his secret identity now restored, Dick stops and smells the proverbial roses with his Spyral cohorts and surrogate family members before moving on to the next phase of his life. The Parliament of Owls (a larger version of the Court of Owls) continues to target Dick. The time has now come for Dick to infiltrate the group using the identity they tried to corrupt and make their own: Nightwing!

Nightwing: Rebirth #1, Yanick PaquetteThis issue tells us Dick’s identity is now a secret again.  To the best of my knowledge, this happened off page somewhere. As I recall, Helena Bertinelli told Dick that Spyral could use its tech to make the world forget what they saw in Forever Evil. This kind of trick isn’t new. You’ve got to get the genie back in the bottle somehow, of course. I just wish we’d actually seen it happen. We don’t even know for sure it was Spiral that restored Dick’s secret. Let’s hope he didn’t make a deal with Mephisto…

The whole stopping by to talk thing is a very Dick Grayson thing to do. We’ve seen it a bunch over the years. His talks with Tiger King and Midnighter feel like a transition out of the Grayson era. Though I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him team with the latter again soon. He briefly speaks with Helena through a door, leaving us longing for a sense of closure between the two. Though Yanick Paquette treats us to a splash page of her in the Huntress costume, practically guaranteeing they’ll meet again down the line. Paquette is also on cover duty for Helena’s adventures in Batgirl & The Birds of Prey, which is a nice connection between the books. Oddly enough, the variant cover by Babs Tarr gives us another Nightwing/Batgirl connection. That can’t be accidental, can it?

So…does Lincoln March die in this book? He takes an arrow through the eyeball, so that’s definitely the implication. If this is the end for him, that’s a disappointment. His big quarrel was with his alleged brother Bruce Wayne. There was unfinished business there. Even factoring in his Grayson role, to see him snuffed out in a Nightwing book feels like a whimper. I’m hoping the Owls restore him, keep him in stasis, or something to that effect.

Nightwing: Rebirth #1, Dick and Damian, yanick PaquetteI’ve been high on Yanick Paquette in the wake of Batman #49. But some of his renderings of Dick and Damian are weirdly off in this issue. For instance, the image at right. What, pray tell, is wrong with Damian’s face? Is it contorted because his eyes hurt? Is he rolling his eyes at the thought of Spyral being on the side of the angels? At certain points he also looks like he’s hunching.

On the plus side, he ends on a splash page of Dick in the Nightwing suit, and it instantly satiated my craving for blue Nightwing. Well done, sir.

Just to clarify, I’m not downing Kyle Higgins, or anyone who worked on the red Nightwing book. Eddy Barrows did some nice work with Dick, and I was pleased when Higgins moved the setting to Chicago. Grayson also turned out better than many of us imagined. But this issue feels like a homecoming. Just as so much we loved about the old DCU has come back in this Rebirth initiative, so has the Nightwing we know and love.

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A Batman/Superman #31 Review – The Search For Supergirl

Batman/Superman #31, cover, Yanick PaquetteTITLE: Batman/Superman #31
AUTHOR: Peter Tomasi
PENCILLER: Doug Mahnke. Cover by Yanick Paquette.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: April 13, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Damn. Just when you thought Big Blue was gettin’ things back in order…BAM. He gets a death sentence. And you thought Batman had bad luck.

Due to the after-effects of multiple intense battles, Superman is apparently dying. With the end in sight, the Man of Steel has begun getting his affairs in order. With help from Batman, he starts searching for Supergirl so that she might continue his work. But Kara isn’t easy to find, and Superman is running out of time…

Readers should be grateful Peter Tomasi has the pen on all the Superman titles for this big “Final Days of Superman” crossover. Not only does that bode well in terms of consistency between issues, but Tomasi is so good at injecting heart into his stories. That’s one of the main reasons his run on Batman & Robin was so good. In the recently rebooted DC Universe, Tomasi made sure the characters still felt familiar. Deep down, this was still the Batman we knew. He’s the perfect pick for a story like this. Though one can argue a story about Superman’s dying days has been done to perfection in All Star Superman.

Batman/Superman #51, Tusk, Doug MahnkeTomasi was a little vague in Superman #51 on what exactly is killing our hero. We knew it was a result of his exposure to the fire pits of Apokalips in Darkseid War, his fight with Rao in Justice League of America, and the A.R.G.U.S. Kryptonite chamber in Truth. In this issue he says something about “Kryptonite malignancy eating away at me.” Anything with the word malignancy in it must be pretty bad. But I’d still like a little more info on what exactly is killing the most powerful man on Earth.

Tomasi understands these characters better than most of the current crop of writers at DC. As such, the dialogue scenes in this issue feel the way they’re supposed to: Like a meeting between two old friends. They sound very much in character. There’s a panel where Batman asks Superman: “Do you know your irises are green?” Coming from another character, this would have sounded asinine. But from Batman it works. We also get the unlikely meeting of Superman and Bat-Cow, which plays to Clark Kent’s upbringing on the farm.

We also get an appearance from Tusk (shown above), who we met when these two worked together in Batman & Robin Annual #1. So we’ve got some fun continuity between that book and this one.

National City, the home of Supergirl on the CBS show of the same name, is mentioned late in the issue. I imagine this is an clue as to what we’ll be getting when Supergirl once again gets her own series this fall. Not a moment too soon, by the way…

Batman/Superman #31 (2016), flying, Doug Mahnke

We’ve also got a character in this book who has mysteriously gained Superman-like powers and is glowing orange. I imagine that’s our villain. Though what exactly is going on with him remains to be seen

Doug Mahnke has drawn so many big DC stories that his art inevitably brings a certain weight, or an “epic” feel, to whatever he’s drawing. This is true with both the action and dialogue sequences. Considering what’s happened over the last year with Superman losing his powers, and Jim Gordon tagging in as Batman, this issue feels like a homecoming.

I trust Peter Tomasi with Superman. Considering how protective I’ve become of the character in recent years, and what’s been done to him recently, that’s saying something. For the time being, Superman and “The Final Days of Superman” are in good hands.

Image 1 from adventuresinpoortaste.com. Image 2 from weird sciencedccomics.blogspot.com. 

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A Batman #50 Review – The Dark Knight Returns

Batman #50, 2016, cover, Greg CapulloTITLE: Batman #50
AUTHOR: Scott Snyder
PENCILLERS: Greg Capullo, Yanick Paquette.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $5.99
RELEAED: March 23, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers ahead for Batman #50.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

What’s the deal with these guys and big Batman robots?

I credit Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, and everyone who’s worked on this Batman run since 2011 with thinking big and not being afraid to take chances. They’ve created something that’s helped define the character for the 21st century. But good lord, these guys have some kind of hard on for Batman and big robots.

In issue #11, when Batman is fighting the Court of Owls as they invade the Batcave, he’s in a big robot. In issue #36, when Batman fights Superman, who’s fallen victim to Joker’s mind control, he’s in a big robot. When Jim Gordon takes over as Batman, half the time he’s in a big robot.

So of course, in the penultimate issue of their run, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo couldn’t resist putting Batman in a big robot as he does battle with Mr. Bloom. But not just any robot. A giant robot. A big Bat-Megazord. Yuck.

Batman #50, Greg Capullo, page 2But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. For the first time since his brutal war with The Joker, Bruce Wayne is Batman again. The deadly Mr. Bloom has Jim Gordon and the GCPD on the ropes, having given his deadly “seeds” to countless Gothamites. Now the true Dark Knight must return to once again vanquish the villain and save his city. But is it already too late?

This issue has a really good hook. When you open it, your eye is immediately drawn to the various Batsuits (shown left). Without any text, that shot says a lot. It gives us a great sense of history as we move forward into a new era. And of course, they just had to get a big Batman robot in there… *grumbles*

Mr. Bloom turned out to be a better villain than he initially seemed. On the surface he seems to be an odd hybrid of Poison Ivy and Scarecrow, with a touch of Joker mixed in. But at heart he’s an anarchist, fed up with the system and determined to go to unspeakable measures to restore the “natural” order of things. Bloom’s identity is left ambiguous here, which is an idea I can only wish Snyder had applied to The Joker. (Sorry folks, I’ve still got Zero Year issues.) I’m not sure how well Bloom would hold up to repeated appearances, if that’s indeed in the cards for him. But for now, he’s a villain worthy of Batman’s grand return.

Duke Thomas has gotten a nice spotlight in this story. Near the end of the issue Snyder begins to close the arc he started with Duke in Zero Year. Between what we’ve seen in both Batman and We Are Robin, he’s become a really interesting character. I can only assume we’ll see him again in Batman #51, which is our creative team‘s last go-around with The Dark Knight.

Batman costume, Batman #50, Greg CapulloStill, while Bruce’s return is drawing the readers in,andDuke beignets come into his own as a hero, the true hero of Batman #50 is Jim Gordon. And that’s how it should be. Despite being woefully ill-prepared for the role of Batman, Gordon never stopped pushing back against the odds. And in the end, it is he, not Bruce Wayne, who risks it all and finally defeats Bloom.

Near the end of the issue, we learn Gordon is even more noble than we thought in his efforts as Batman. It wasn’t just about answering the call for Gotham. For Gordon, it was also about letting his friend finally rest while someone else took the load on. That sentiment speaks volumes about Gordon and his relationship with Batman. It’s even hinted he knows Bruce’s secret, which is fine. It remains unspoken between them, as many things are.

For his return, Batman sports a new costume (shown above). I’m a fan. The shades of blue in the cape and cowl, and the yellow outline around the Bat symbol are a nice tribute to what’s come before. I also like the little sneer Batman has on that first splash page.

As we see Mr. Bloom’s downfall, Gordon has a monologue about who and what Batman is. The gist of it is that while Batman can’t necessarily fix Gotham’s deepest-rooted problems, he inspires its citizens by believing in them. Snyder writes a great line with:”He’s the superhero who sees us as the heroes we can be.” I won’t say it’s the best Batman sentiment I’ve ever heard, but it’s still pretty damn good.

Batman #50, 2016After our main story, Yanick Paquette tags back in for an epilogue, where we essentially return to the status quo. It’s a welcome return, considering the work he did last issue. In addition to a nice little reunion between Batman and Jim Gordon, and perhaps a bit of foreshadowing with Duke, we get a moment of heartache with Julie Madison and a brief glimpse of the Bruce Wayne that could have been. The Bruce Wayne who died so Batman could return. It’s as fitting an ending as we could have gotten for “Superheavy.”

While I can’t say I’m a fan of everything I saw in this issue. But Batman #50 is a $5.99 issue that was worth the cover price. Big robots or not, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have been hugely impactful on the Batman mythos, and in a sense it’s sad to see them go. Thankfully, we’ve got one issue left…

Image 1 from gamespot.co,. Image 2 from geeklyrant.com. Image 3 from bleedingcool.com.

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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 Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne Review – Get Me Back in Time

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne, covertTITLE: Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne

AUTHOR: Grant Morrison
PENCILLERS: Chris Sprouse, Frazer Irving, Yanick Paquette, Georges Jeanty, Ryan Sook, Pere Perez, Lee Garbett. Cover by Andy Kubert.
COLLECTS: Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #1-6
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $29.99
RELEASE DATE: February 2, 2011

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

My feelings on The Return of Bruce Wayne  are a mixed bag, because my feelings on Grant Morrison’s writing are often a mixed bag. In general, I think when he deals with stories that are smaller in scope, i.e. his Batman & Robin stories, he’s fantastic. But when his stuff explodes on to a more cosmic scale, things get needlessly convoluted.

In Return, we get a little of both. After the events of Final Crisis, as a result of Darkseid’s Omega Sanction, Bruce Wayne has been sent into the past with no memory of who he is. Throughout the story, Bruce experiences several time jumps, taking him to various periods in history. But per the Omega Sanction, if Bruce makes it back to his own time, he’ll bring about the end of the world.

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #1I’ve been split on the idea of sending Bruce back in time. Obviously they had to send him away for awhile so they could do the  story line with Dick Grayson and Damian becoming the new Batman & Robin. But having him be stuck in time seems a little corny to me. I don’t really want to see Bruce as a caveman, I want to see him as Batman. On the other hand, the idea of Batman functioning in different time periods isn’t a bad one, even if he doesn’t remember he’s Batman. So there were times when I found myself begrudgingly enjoying this story.

Each issue seems to examine a different aspect of the Bruce Wayne/Batman character. When he’s a cave man we see the raw, emotional animal in him. When he’s a puritan witch hunter, we see the detective. When he’s a pirate, we see the swashbuckling fighter, etc. Morrison also uses many of the traditional symbols and motifs from Batman’s world very well. For instance, the image of Martha Wayne’s falling pearls, to the small bell Bruce rang to summon Alfred in Batman: Year One. Those are done quite well.

The most enjoyable issue for yours truly was the second one, with art by Frazer Irving. Each artist is married to their issue/time period very well, but Irving’s work suits his setting wonderfully, and his colors are beautifully dreary.

The Return of Bruce Wayne #2I must admit, I’m a bit torn as to what my end verdict on this book should be. It’s received a great deal of acclaim, but I can’t muster up the enthusiasm for it that others seem to have. I understand what it was trying to do in terms of character study, and much of the art is done masterfully. The last few pages are also very well done. But in my book The Return of Bruce Wayne doesn’t measure up to the greatness of some of Morrison’s other work, like Arkham Asylum, Batman #663 with John Van Fleet, Batman R.I.P., and his Batman & Robin issues. It’s filled with some of the “Morrisonian” convolution that plagued Final Crisis, and it was a story I really just wanted to see end so we could get Bruce back where he belongs.

There’s also an inherent cheesiness to this story that I just can’t get past. At times it almost feels like Morrison got this story idea from playing with some Batman action figures from the ’90s. We’ve got Caveman Bruce, Pirate Bruce, Cowboy Bruce, etc.

Nevertheless, good work deserves it’s due, even if I personally don’t appreciate it as much as many other fans do. So I’ll be fair, if not a little generous in terms of my own opinions.

RATING: 6/10

Image 1 from amazon.com. Image 2 from doublearticulation.wordpress.com.

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