This Week in Comics: Scarecrows, Cats, and All Them Bats

Reviews and the discussions they inspire are a big part of why you come to the Batman News comics section. So an article in which all of our reviewers engage in a discussion? Why, you’d think that would be a no-brainer! And yet it took several years for the idea to cross our minds… We missed the entire purple cape phase! Anyway, here’s the new plan: at the end of every week you can come back here and see what it’s like when all of your favorite reviewers let their hair down and talk about all the Wednesday Bat-books. And I mean all of them. The ones they reviewed and the ones they didn’t. Even that one that everybody hates! You know the one. Even if Batman News dropped a title from its review rotation ages ago, it’ll be lauded or lambasted right here. It’ll be fun. Should be, anyway. Some of the most well-versed Bat-fans praising or debating the merits of your pull-list? That sounds like a great way to cap off a week in comics! 

So here it is: the weekly roundup. Think of it like a peek into the Batman News breakroom or, perhaps more accurately, as a copy/paste of a chain email or an overcrowded podcast that you have to read. Personally, I will be reading it with a cup of eggnog in hand, maybe pour a little extra bourbon in there because I’ve earned it… then I’m gonna drink every time someone says “in my opinion” or “enjoyed.” Play along with me, won’t you?  For an extra challenge, take two sips when you read the word “Batman.”

Batman #61

Josh: Before we jump into the story, I want to start off by gushing over the variant cover for this issue by Francesco Mattina. This one will probably go on my wall! As for the issue itself… This is a follow-up to Batman #38, and while I enjoyed it, I definitely felt as if we’re getting it at the wrong time. Narratively, it feels out of place.

Jay: Agreed.  I might not be on board with the direction the book has been going, but at least it’s had forward momentum.  This interlude has stopped it dead in its tracks. It doesn’t really help that I wasn’t a fan of this kid’s first appearance, either.

Brian: *grumble grumble* I dropped Batman from my pull list last week.

Josh: You’re just now dropping Batman from you pull list?

Brian: This issue doesn’t give me any regrets. I wasn’t nuts about this little weirdo kid when King introduced him, and bringing him back into the picture now doesn’t make me feel any better about a run I’m already struggling through. Also—and this isn’t really King’s fault—it felt weird reading this a week after ‘Tec’s ties to the Wayne murders.

Elena:  I’d like to get through just one King Batman issue without him quoting old dead white guys.

Josh: I think the old, dead, white guy quotes are the best part… Desperate, yes, but at least they add something to each issue.

Casper: It was all right. As a single issue it doesn’t do much for me, but it’s only part 1 of a new arc. I’m curious to see where this goes. Also, I like Travis Moore’s artwork a lot. It’s really good. And one more thing… from what I remember, the kid got locked up in Arkham Asylum at the end of #38, right? But in this issue they are saying they can’t lock him up in Arkham because he’s just a kid? I’m confused. (Or maybe I just don’t remember it correctly.)

Josh: I give Tom side-eye whenever he references an “arc.” I think his stories barely meet the standard to be called an arc, and even then the plot itself doesn’t arc, there’s just a sleight character arc. King has also already stated that the issues would be stand-alone issues… I don’t know. I don’t want to be bitter, but I’ve gotten to where I can’t stand King’s run.

Dan: This was such a confusing, self-indulgent issue. The gap from #38 to now is daft. I re-read ‘The Origin of Bruce Wayne’ and barely understood this issue; I can only imagine how difficult it would be for a new or casual reader picking this up because it’s a new arc. This issue actually diminishes the impact of #38.

Josh: “Self-indulgent.” That’s the word I’ve been looking for. I also felt like this issue diminished the impact of Batman #38 as well. Granted, I didn’t go back to re-read 38, so I’m merely basing that off of memory.  

Dan: It’s also poor timing because Detective Comics is also dealing with the Crime Alley murders right now.

Josh: Agreed.

Dan: The script doesn’t deserve art of Moore’s standard. Gordon looked a bit odd at times but otherwise it’s a good-looking book; emotion is conveyed well in the characters’ faces and Batman looks like a badass cloaked in shadows.

Elena: I think Gordon was made to look like Ben McKenzie, but with a mustache. I agree it doesn’t quite seem to work, but I still appreciate the choice for fans of the show, and the rendering is great; just not quite what we usually expect Gordon to look like (which is true of McKenzie, too, in my opinion).  

Dan: By the way, who is the guy laying on the floor of the cell after Matthew kills the bald prisoner?

Josh: I believe it was just the person he was sharing a cell with. I took it as Matthew imagining he’d killed someone, but really just killed his cellmate. And then the officer mentioned that this is the seventh person he’s done this to.

Jay: To this arc’s credit, I’m kind of interested in seeing what each artist brings to the table.  It’s set up as a series of one-shots that will create a larger story, each issue illustrated by a different team, and that could go some interesting places.  Typically I prefer when one artist stays on the duration of a story, but since this is by design it at least has my attention.


Justice League #14

Brian: Initial read: meh. The ideas are great, but Tynion isn’t impressing me with how they get fleshed out into human interaction. The dialogue in the Thanagar scenes is so-so at its best moments, and awkward and weird at its worst.

Jay: Agreed.  It wasn’t painfully overwrought, but could have benefitted from another pass.

Casper: I wonder why Snyder didn’t write this issue himself… The art was pretty good, though. I wish Jim Cheung had illustrated the entire issue, but Stephen Segovia did a good job too. I especially like the “camera” angles, it makes the scenes fun to look at.

Brian: After reading some more, I don’t get bogged down quite as much by the dialogue. The Thanagar stuff is still touch and go, but the nicely-orchestrated intensity of the last couple of pages really overshadows the difficulty of getting there.

Josh: This is exactly how I felt. The first half of the book is… well, not great. But as the mystery starts unfolding, I found myself more interested. More than anything, it felt like they knew where they wanted to start and end the issue, then just dumped filler in until they got to that point.

Casper: I actually enjoyed the narration as well. It pulled me into the story on the first page and I just knew that I was in for some comics fun. I agree that the dialogue doesn’t always work out so well, but all in all I had fun reading this.

Dan: I also liked the judicious use of the arch narration; I felt it elevated the scene in which we looked with wonder upon the raptor superstructure.

The dialogue is unnaturally expository in places, John’s tattoo ring is preposterous and I can’t understand why the hawkmen are suspicious of outsiders yet there are plenty of aliens at their festival. Nonetheless, I enjoyed this issue more than most of Drowned Earth. We got the return of Jarro and this story is a great opportunity for us to get to know John, J’onn and Kendra. Hawkgirl in particular has been a background character in the series so far.

Oh and I’m calling it now: Shayera is a White Martian!

Jay: Oh snap, I didn’t even think of that.  Good call Dan. I wasn’t a fan of how Shayera was written, hoping the entire time that there would be something else at play, and that theory makes perfect sense.  I dig it.

Josh: Mmmm…. Yeah, I guess I enjoyed this more than “Drowned Earth” by the time the issue ended. “Drowned Earth” just tried to do too much in too short of a time. They raced right through that story – which could be a good thing. I haven’t decided yet.

I didn’t think about Shayera being a White Martian, but I can see it! The Hawkman reveal is what really grabbed my interest though!

Casper: Shayera being a White Martian would be epic. Now I’m really curious to see if that actually turns out to be true. I guess we’ll find out soon.


Batman: King of Fears #5

Casper: I don’t know about you guys, but I freaking love this book. It’s an epic bad trip on fear gas and we’re delving deep into Batman’s psyche. I think we could have gone even deeper into his psyche, but at some point you probably have to draw the line. I think Peterson and Jones maintain a good balance: they don’t go so deep that this book turns into a literary psychological study that might just not be everyone’s cup of tea, but they also don’t keep it superficial or anything. It’s just a damn good read, especially if you’re into Scarecrow stories. And really, I think Scarecrow is so much more scary here than he is in Nightwing, because here he’s really in your face and asking the hard questions, whereas in Nightwing he’s just doing his same old villain thing which we’ve seen over and over.

One more thing to close this opening monologue so you guys can chime in is that I’ve come to really enjoy Kelley Jones’s visuals. I know that some people hate it and I can totally see where they’re coming from, but in my opinion this dude has such a good grasp on these psychedelic visuals, and I appreciate how Peterson gives Jones the space to tell the story visually. For example, if there’s something that’s better expressed visually than verbally, Peterson will let Jones take care of it instead of filling the panel with unnecessary words. Oh! And that cliffhanger! Man, I love this book. I could rave on about this, but then I’d just end up writing my review twice — haha!

Brian: This is one of the few books I buy in print, because I just love Kelly Jones. But sadly, I’m way behind! Maybe when I pick up my books, I’ll catch up and have something more interesting to say!

Elena: I’m the opposite, Brian. I really dislike Kelly Jones’ work, so I’ve been dragging my feet on this one. But I do love Scarecrow, so I do want to catch up eventually.

Casper: Brian, the good thing about that is that you get to binge the series when you have time to read them. You’re going to love this, I know you will!

And I can totally see that, Elena. But this series has really changed my opinion on Jones’s art. He’s just such a fun and creative artist and, like I said in my review, his storytelling capabilities should not be underestimated. But again, I get why you might dislike it, because I used to dislike his work too. But I really fell in love with it. I’m excited to review these issues and I hope that anyone who reads the comics will also really enjoy them.

Josh: I’m with you, Casper! Not only do I love Jones’ art here, but in general, I think this is the best Bat book on the stands right now. I think it perfectly captures what we all view as the epitome of Batman. Batman’s characterization feels right, the rogues feel right… Everything about Batman: King of Fears screams “classic” as far as I’m concerned.

Dan: I haven’t been reading this because the wonky nature of Jones’ artwork put me off but I enjoyed this issue. Though some of the achievements of the rogues gallery are ridiculous, Scarecrow has some important points for Batman and the trippy artwork adds to the feeling of inhabiting the dark knight’s nightmare.

Casper: I don’t mind that some of the rogues’ achievements are ridiculous, because these are visions presented to Bruce while he’s tripping balls. It adds to the surrealness, and the state that Bruce is in makes it hard for him to rationalize these things. In my opinion, everything that we see here is either a distorted reflection of Bruce’s reality, or it’s a straight-up lie. The fact that Bruce is struggling to see this because he was given a monster dose of fear gas makes this stuff even scarier to me. So I’m okay with how ridiculous some of the rogues are — I think that’s precisely the point of that passage. And I also thought it was pretty funny to see.

Jay: You guys already covered everything I could say about this book.  I love it, just for how weird and trippy it is. Hands down my favorite Batman book on the stands right now.  Jones’ work is incredible, and I’ll absolutely be buying this once the trade hits.

Casper: Yes! Fingers crossed the upcoming finale will be great too.


Nightwing #55

Josh: Oh, crap… Here we go again…

Elena: Rick’s mantra seems to be “Don’t think about”. Well…I’m definitely trying not to.  And did anyone else bust out laughing at the “sexier out of costume” line? Has any artist ever made Dick Grayson look uglier than this one? Also, speaking of art, so much needlessly distracting crotchwork on everyone here.

Josh: It’s Ric, Elena. There is no “k.” Ric is trying to be new-age-grunge-hipster-too-cool-for-you-but-he-doesn’t-really-care or something, and Ric doesn’t like when you add a “k” to his name. Now tell Ric you’re sorry… Hahahahaha! This whole thing is RICdiculous.

Casper: I only have three things to say about this issue right now: 1) If you want a good Scarecrow story, check out Kings of Fear! (Sorry, had to repeat that one more time.)

Josh: Yes!

Casper: 2) “Don’t think about it” is probably a good mantra while reading this story. I mean, I didn’t completely hate it, but it’s also still not really doing anything for me. I’m bored.

Josh: Hi, bored. I’m angry.

Casper: 3) I didn’t actually notice the crotchwork? I don’t want to go back and check just for that, though — haha! ; )

Brian: Ugh, Elena is right. Look at those things:

Elena: You can never unsee it now.  

Josh: Oh God! My eyes! Why!?!? I have to… I have to review this book every other week! That means I have to examine these panels! Why would you do this to me? (Goes and cries in corner with a tub of ice cream).

Casper: Oh my god. Okay then…haha! But, either way, I do think it’s not entirely fair to be completely negative about the book. While I was bored reading this issue — mainly because this just isn’t the story that I want to be reading right now and therefore it wasn’t doing much for me — I do have to say that there are things in the art that I enjoy (and no, not the crotchwork, get your mind out of the gutter, guys!). For example, I think that the art is suitable for a horror story. If you look at characters’ faces, you can see the fear and madness in their eyes and expressions, and I think that Scarecrow looks appropriately creepy. I especially like those big round glasses that he’s wearing. But still, this story just isn’t for me. Like I said, I don’t completely hate it, but I am simply not interested.

Josh: Scarecrow and the framing of the panels are about the only thing I like from the art team.

Elena: I agree: Scarecrow looks great, but the regular folks are all just really bland and unappealing for me: I can barely tell them apart.

Dan: Mooneyham & Brown have very unusual styles and I still like to pretend this arc isn’t happening. Scarecrow is primitively drawn; his basic old-fashioned motivation pales in comparison to the more sophisticated depiction in Kings of Fear. Also, the idea of Scarecrow being frightened of Dick’s fearlessness is ridiculous. Despite all this, I found this issue kind of enjoyable; I like the cops, it’s not as nonsensical as this week’s Batman and it felt like Ric might finally become Dick again.

Josh: My main thing with Dick is that they’re not consistent with this “Ric” persona, and the cops – as much as I want to like them – are paper thin, so it’s hard to really get behind them. They seem like good people, but we know nothing about who they really are or what they stand for.

I think the biggest disappointment to come out of all of this, was hearing Tom King discuss on a podcast what the original plan was for Nightwing. When he pitched the idea of Dick getting shot in the head, he’d pitched it with the outcome of Tim coming to Bludhaven, taking the mantle of Nightwing, and serving as caretaker to Dick while he recovered, regained his memories and abilities, etc… Why didn’t DC go with that? That would have been exponentially better than this crap!

Casper: Now that sounds like a story I’d want to read right now.

Jay: Oh, without question.  It would have given Tim something to do (at least until Young Justice launches), and it would reinforce the brotherly bond between Tim and Dick.  I’m… kind of upset now, knowing what could have been.

Josh: And just in case you’re trying to remain hopeful that the book will improve, Joker’s Daughter is on the horizon… Shoot me now.

Jay: Oh jeez, I’d forgotten that she’s coming up…

Elena: She surprisingly wasn’t the worst thing last time she popped up, but no, that doesn’t really bode well for a book that’s already struggling.

Josh: If you’re referring to Red Hood & Arsenal, can we really use “she wasn’t the worst thing the last time she popped up” as a compliment? That book was a dumpster fire. Haha!

Elena: No, actually I was referring to Death of the Family.

Josh: Ah, yeah… I see you tried to erase Red Hood & Arsenal from your memory as well.

Elena: Yeah, I literally forgot that happened.  


Catwoman #6

Elena: I want to like this more, but it really isn’t my favorite genre of comic. That said, I’d give this a pretty solid score. The visuals are quite stunning for the most part, and I do like the way Selina slinks in and out of scenes and shadows.

I’m also piqued by the end beats with Mags. I’d only been half-paying attention to the “Copycats” arc, but I’m much more intrigued by what’s coming next.

Brian: Elena, that’s exactly how I feel (your first statement), and it’s how I felt about Grayson back in the day. I almost feel guilty for not reading this, because the quality is above much of its neighbors on the shelf. Maybe come trade time, I’ll read it all in one pop.

Elena: I struggled with Grayson too! Despite him being one of my favorite characters, I just couldn’t get into the whole espionage/Brother Eye thing. And Catwoman feels exactly like that: quality I want to enjoy, but just can’t seem to engage with.

Josh: Well, I loved Grayson, and I can’t say the same for Catwoman. There are beats of this book that are good, but overall, the pieces aren’t as cohesive as they should be. While the art is quality, the writing isn’t. And that’s not to say that Jones is a terrible writer – she has a ton of potential – but DC should’ve paired her with someone because the story doesn’t flow well at all.

Dan: This was quite an understated finale to the arc. Though I found the opening page very cramped and I hate seeing so many empty backgrounds, I fell in love with Joëlle Jones’ face and figure work in the pages of Lady Killer and I like how much her Selina looks like Pfeiffer when she dons her mask.

Josh: I do love the similarities to Pfeiffer’s Catwoman!

Casper: I actually really enjoyed this issue. In fact, I’ve been enjoying the entire series so far. I’ll admit it’s a bit slow at times, but I don’t mind. For me stories don’t have to be full of explosions and action and fast-paced plots: great character work is always my main concern in the first place, and I think that Jones writes a really cool Selina Kyle that I want to follow for a while and see where her journey takes her.

I’m also just really glad that there’s a quality Catwoman book on stands again so I’ll continue to support this one as long as I’m still enjoying it. The main attraction for me is of course the artwork; I find it really inspiring, the way Jones can create atmosphere and mood and tell her stories sequentially. She’s a real powerhouse when it comes to artwork, and her writing is solid too.

Josh: That’s the thing, I don’t think there actually is good character work here. There’s really not much depth to these characters outside of Selina – who I will admit Jones handles very well. But even the Creel family… We know nothing about them, and all we see are them reacting to situations. Then you’ve got the two detectives – one of which ends up in jail, but it doesn’t explain why. Is it his ties to the Creel family? If so, why isn’t the Creel family also in jail? There are just too many holes in the story for me.

Elena: Six issues in, I’m still sort of okay with some holes. I do agree that the detectives aren’t very interesting.

Jay: This book looks nice, and it isn’t poorly written, I just have great difficulty retaining any memory of what went on after I finish.  The series started strong, and I’ll keep reading it, but I’ve definitely cooled in my enthusiasm. Tl;dr: I don’t remember anything that happened in this issue.

Casper: I also agree that the detectives aren’t very interesting. They’re just around, I suppose. As for the Creel family, while the sons and the husband aren’t fully fledged out (and I honestly don’t think they have to be because this is not their story), I think that Mrs. Creel isn’t uninteresting at all. Yes, I do agree that she could have gotten some more panel time to further flesh out the character, but regardless I feel like Jones got to the point pretty quickly with that character. Perhaps Mrs. Creel isn’t the most memorable villain, but clearly this is a woman who is power mad and desperate and depressed. Not only is she disfigured, but her life is really chaotic as well. I think she works fine as an antagonist, although I’ll admit that I am missing a more in-depth look into her psyche. But I still disagree with the notion that there isn’t good character work here. It could definitely be better and Mrs. Creel could have been more interesting and more memorable, but at the end of the day I think it is still pretty good stuff. And, lastly, I also really enjoyed the body horror aspects: Jones draws a very scary-looking Creel, even when she’s wearing her wig and make-up. But to each their own, and here’s to hoping that the next arc will be even better than the first!


Teen Titans #25

Elena: What the Flock of Seagulls did I just read?

Josh: I don’t even know…

Elena: Once again, a bunch of appalling characters doing appalling things, cliché interactions with the “terminally uncool”, and a lot of over-the-top mindless violence masquerading as conflict. Who is the audience for this?

Dan: Yeah, I also had no time for the lazy bundle of bad girl tropes that was Crush in this. Four bland pages of her Earth parents discovering her was painfully excessive. Djinn was quite funny in a Starfire/fish-out-of-water kind of way.

Casper: I like the story about Crush better than the story about Roundhouse. The Crush story was a bit weird, but at least it was a full story. The Roundhouse short was just … I don’t know. It just was, I suppose.

Josh: Yeah, the Roundhouse story wasn’t needed.

Elena: I gave up after Crush. The whole aesthetic of the Roundhouse tale somehow reminded me of those old Twinkies ads with Plastic Man that they used to run in comic books back in the day, so I just skipped it as filler.

Brian: I enjoyed the first few arcs of Percy’s run, but when I stopped reviewing it, I stopped reading it. And truth be told, I was too put off by the promo image for this new team to give it a shot. Damian’s massively pouty lips were too much. Unless TT gets GREAT, I’m just not seeing a spot for it in my reading schedule.

Jay: Haven’t read this in months, and based on your reactions, I’ve no intention of jumping back in.

Josh: The problem here is that I think this run was intended to be one thing (dark and gritty), then was met with sour opinions before it ever really got started, then shifted to this teeny, boppy, approach, and now they’re clashing big time. There doesn’t appear to be a clear direction, and while some elements are good, this issue is not. And there are some really interesting elements that are worth exploring, but we’ve yet to actually explore any of them! I’m fine with the idea of exploring Crush’s past, but so many things have been set-up, and haven’t been dealt with. I mean, Robin has his dungeon that’s currently holding Black Mask, Brother Blood, and others… We haven’t explored that. Robin’s working with Red Hood to capture these criminals… We haven’t explored that. The Other is still out there, a mystery, and murdered Lady Vic… We haven’t explored that. Djinn has a connection to The Other and an immense darkness inside of her… We haven’t explored that. This book desperately needs momentum, but is moving in every direction other than forward.


Harley Quinn #56

Josh: I decided I’d try to read this because I was curious to see what Russell brought to the table… I got about five pages in and put it down. This book just isn’t for me. I enjoyed a lot of what Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner brought to the table, but this “version” of Harley should have ended with them.

Casper: In my opinion this is not necessarily a bad book, but at the same time it wasn’t really for me. I think the story mostly hinges on the jokes and political satire, and there isn’t as much room for character development. These kinds of stories are always tricky because if the jokes are just not your kind of humor, then there’s not much left for you to enjoy. That was kind of the case for me. Again, I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily bad, but I’m also not blown away.

Elena: This completely fell off my radar. I didn’t have a chance to read it, sorry!  : o p

Jay: Again, haven’t read it since issue 50.  Has Adam Strange popped up again? That might move the needle.

Casper: Nope. No Adam Strange. Just cats. Lots and lots of cats!


And there you have it. We don’t really have a way to wrap up this article in a way that makes it feel like a natural conclusion just yet… so here’s a Batman collage I drew as an homage to Batman artists from various eras.