Reviews and the discussions they inspire are a big part of why readers visit the Batman News comics section. So an article in which all of our reviewers engage in a discussion about that week’s titles? Why, you’d think it’s 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 plan: at the end of every week we’ll post a lengthy conversation that illustrates 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 the Comics Section‘s 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’m just wondering how long I’m going to keep opening this weekly article with the same exact intro. Like, am I waiting for enough readers to understand the premise before I really let loose with a unique opening paragraph with every installment or am I just lazy and this is what I’m going to do every time? It’s a headscratcher. And I’m starting to think those crappy doodles really are how this article is supposed to end every time. Ridiculous!
The Batman Who Laughs #2
Josh: For the sake of diverting expectation, let’s start this week with The Batman Who Laughs. I’ll kick things off by saying that I’m greatly enjoying the book, but there are a few aspects that bother me.
Brian: I think Snyder is doing his best work on Justice League, and this feels like a return to some of what I didn’t like from late in his Batman run and Metal.
Elena: Ditto for me. I liked the opening issue, but this seems to be devolving into the same old schtick.
Josh: I agree with Brian on both counts. Snyder’s best work is on Justice League, and there are aspects of this that remind me of the back half of his Batman run and Metal. That being said, I’m more interested in the Batman Who Laughs as a character now than I was during Metal. I feel like we’re actually getting to see the chaotic brilliance of this character in ways that Metal didn’t allow. Before I thought BWL looked terrifying, but now he actually feels terrifying.
Casper: I enjoyed this issue. Not as much as #1, which I really liked a lot, but I thought this one was still very entertaining. However, like I pointed out in my review this week, I do fundamentally disagree with how Alfred was handled. Him performing open heart surgery on the Joker in the Batcave is not believable and I find it hard to take that seriously–even in a comic book about larger-than-life heroes and villains.
Jay: I liked some of the dialogue (though “Last Laugh” was a little too cheeky) and the scene where Bruce is disguised as Bullock was pretty funny.
Elena: That was the highlight of this book for me. I kinda got disengaged after the silly heart surgery scene and the almost even sillier business of Bruce sitting there with the cowl and no shirt on full of hypodermics. As usual, everything is excess with Snyder.
Josh: Yeah, that’s my thing with Snyder… I feel like he always needs someone to reign him in. He tends to go too big with his plots or his characters are god-like and can do or endure anything. It just takes me out of the story. I don’t want it to sound like I’m not enjoying the book though. I’d almost say this book is near perfect were it not for that aspect. I’m loving the character work and the parallels of the different Bruce Waynes. There’s also a nice undertone of horror throughout the book as well. It’s good.
Jay: Jock’s turning in some good work too. It’s very much a Scott Snyder joint through and through, which isn’t a bad thing at all, just something to be aware of. Besides that, there’s a palpable sense of dread that’s bubbling below the surface that I think works really well.
Josh: Jay, you captured what I was feeling but couldn’t find a way to express. There’s a huge sense of dread in this book, and with so many comics lacking stakes, I love that Snyder and Jock are keeping me on my toes. I’m liking the Grim Knight as well. Yes, he’s just Batman as Punisher, but I’m ok with that. I kind of hope both of these characters stick around. I feel like there’s so much you can do with them and a six issue miniseries isn’t enough time to do all of that.
Detective Comics #996
Brian: Still digging the heck out of this book, and very interested to see who’s behind it all. Also, seeing the original Mister Miracle was super cool.
Josh: I’m trying to remember, did Snyder ever feature the original Mister Miracle in his Batman run as a mentor for Bruce?
Jay: Yeah, I’m here for this book. And Kyodai Ken!
Josh: Hell yeah! *Whispers* Please don’t let him die.
Elena: My heart seized a little when I saw him: here’s a character we haven’t had enough of and nooooo, let’s not just kill him too!
Josh: Tomasi is doing a great job and I’m loving this story, but… I hate the blobby, morphing monster. I’m not a fan at all… The whole bit with the creature morphing into Batman’s rogues was, umm, interesting. It did remind me of “One Face” face though, and that’s never a good thing. (For those of you that don’t remember One Face, he was Two Face hyped up on venom in The Dark Knight at the launch of the New 52… It was bad.)
Elena: I’m not a huge fan of blobby morpho-monster either, but hopefully Ducard took it out with him in the catacombs and it was just a catalyst for the next thing.
Josh: One can hope… I did enjoy Ducard though! And I really liked the exchange between Batman and Ducard about Damian killing Nobody.
Elena: People are speculating about the involvement of the Arkham Knight, but I’m on the fence whether he will reveal himself to be friend or foe. Some aspects of the attack don’t really make sense for the Arkham Knight, but we have no idea what’s motivating the perpetrator at this point other than a desire to hurt Batman where he lives.
Josh: I feel like people are speculating Arkham Knight because Tomasi confirmed his run would bring Arkham Knight into continuity, but I kind of feel like that would be an underwhelming reveal because of the announcements. I know the arc after issue 1000 is about Arkham Knight, so hopefully we don’t see him until then. As for the villain’s motivation, I like that he or she is going after people that “made” Batman. I hate that we lost Leslie – seriously, I’m not over that – but I like the feeling that nobody is safe, and I’m curious to see who is next on the hit list. Any guesses on the next target, or who you think is behind this?
Elena: Re: target: Talia, Selina, some other old love interest? Not surprised we haven’t seen the rest of the Batfamily get attacked at this point. Whoever is stalking Bruce is really targeting his early influences.
Josh: I suspect Gordon might be a target soon. As for the villain, I could see Talia but not Selina. Hell, it might even be Ra’s.
Brian: On the Arkham Knight—I know it’s hoping for way too much, and it doesn’t line up with what’s happening in Red Hood, but I really hope it’s Jason. The Arkham Knight game gave us, largely, the same whiny Jason that I always despised, though with some more sympathetic developments—particularly that he had never died at Joker’s hands, but was psychologically tormented. But the Arkham Knight tie-in comics—especially Genesis—they made him a much more compelling character than he’s ever been, and I think Jason should be the one in the mask. The huge problem there, of course, is that Jason-as-AK doesn’t make sense in continuity, because he’s already had his Under the Red Hood moment in the timeline. As for the next target, gosh, there are a number of possibilities. Is Joe Chill still alive in our current timeline? How about the Roman? There are villains who were very formative, as well.
Josh: Good point, I didn’t think about villains being targets. That would be interesting.
Jay: Yeah, but Kyodai Ken.
Josh: Wait, are you just excited he’s here, or are you trying to say you think he’s the villain in all of this?
Jay: A little bit of both. He’s one of those characters from the Animated Series that I’m honestly surprised hasn’t had a second life in the comics. Especially weird considering his place in Bruce’s past would be incredibly easy to incorporate into continuity, and his episodes were well-received.As far as being the villain, I don’t know if he’s the true mastermind behind the whole story, but even if he’s an accomplished ninja who could easily wreck a bunch of dudes on his own, the fact that he was the only one left standing is suspicious.
Casper: You know, I honestly would not be surprised if Kyodai Ken is actually (one of) the villain(s) in this. He and Bruce have been at odds in the past. It is a bit convenient that he’s the only one left standing at the temple when Bruce arrives. However, I’m not entirely sure yet what his motivation would be. Other than that, I think this arc’s biggest strength is that it maintains a sense of mystery. The big weird monster is perhaps a bit too 90s for me and doesn’t really match the sophisticated tone of the overall story, but despite this I do wonder where it comes from and what exactly it is. I also enjoy that we slowly get more pieces of the puzzle, although I think there is still too much emphasis on fighting instead of detective work for my tastes. It was great seeing Bruce wear all those disguises in France, though, to find Ducard. All in all, I’m really enjoying this arc. Tomasi is doing great work and Mahnke is great as ever.
Red Hood: Outlaw #30
Brian: It’s not what it was at the beginning of Rebirth, but this is a big step back in the right direction.
Josh: Completely agree! There were a few issues that dipped in quality, but this issue was fun. I enjoyed the “chase” of it all. I’m also curious to see who is under the Wingman suit.
Casper: I have no idea what’s going on in this book. It feels like forever since I last read some of Jason’s stories. I just don’t feel a lot of incentive to start following the character.
Jay: I know I liked it just fine, I just don’t really remember much about it. Bunker was there, and Wingman. That’s… it.
Josh: Bunker! I forgot about him popping up at the end. I enjoyed him during the New 52 Teen Titans run. I even included him in an arc for a Batman & the Outsiders arc I outlined.
Elena: I barely recognize this character anymore. Also forgot that Roy died. Eh. Lobdell is doing the canned storytelling thing again: foreshadowed warning, deserted prison, John Wick dog friend, evil scientific experiment. It’s not terrible, but has a fresh factor of about 4 out of 10.
Josh: Yeah, the fresh factor is a little low, but I’m enjoying it for what it is. My problem was that the connections from the last four to six issues that were supposed to lead us to this point weren’t executed well at all. This issue had to take a chunk of time to explain how we got here, and while I usually complain about books doing this, I started this issue out wondering, “How did we get here again?” And I don’t feel like it was a lapse in memory, I just don’t think it was every actually explained well. Also, I liked the dog, Elena… Don’t hate on the dog. Comic writers, if you add a dog in a book I’m reviewing, your score will increase by a point. Haha!
Elena: I don’t not like the dog. It’s just that Lobdell tends to create props, not characters. That dog has about as much personality as a dirty sock.
Josh: Elena hates dogs! Hahahahaha! (Kidding) That’s a fair point though. I’m clearly biased when it comes to dogs, but I own that.
Suicide Squad #50
Josh: I tried reading this issue, but I was reminded of monster Waller and just didn’t have it in me to do it.
Jay: This just felt like another issue, not the ending of an entire series. It was better than the series was at its lowest, but not anywhere near how good it was at its best.
Josh: That’s a good point, and worth commenting on. DC let this fizzle out. They never really put any attention into the fact that it was ending, they just let it slide under the radar. And that’s a shame because there were some great issues and stories early on during Rebirth. Overall, this was one of the most enjoyable, recent runs of Suicide Squad, so kudos to Williams and team for delivering over the past few years.
Elena: German Peralta’s art is so stiff to me in this. The whole issue feels snatched right out of the 80s, circus-style coloring and all. I found it strangely gratifying to see Harley get fried, but there was so much stuff blowing up at the end, I sort of lost track of why any of it mattered. But I was never really following this title too closely anyway.
Josh: The art was stiff – part of the reason I decided not to take the time to read the issue – and there’s really no reason for the big booms other than to go out with a “bang.” I’m not sure the team was successful with that if nobody cares though…
Casper: My Suicide Squad reviews haven’t been very positive since I took on review duties for this book. I’m afraid that, as you can read in my review this week as well, that’s not going to change. This final issue is a mess. The art looks rushed in places (although I liked the art in the first couple of pages). There is a lot of exposition in weird places, where it doesn’t make sense for characters to be talking at length about what they are going to do, because they are running out of time. Harley almost messes up the entire plan just because she wants to have fun, which is rather annoying. I also think that it’s much too convenient that Soultaker magically knows crucial information in the most dire moments and that Deadshot’s way of closing the alien portal is to just shoot at the control panel. This book may have been good earlier on during Rebirth, but it hasn’t managed to get back to those quality standards in a long time. It’s sad to see it just peter out like this. I wish it was better…but what can you do? That said, I will miss seeing these characters every month. Not because the stories written about them have been great, but just because, despite all the flaws and problems, it has been fun seeing them together in one book, growing closer together as a family as they slowly learned to trust each other and work together.
Brian: I missed a few issues along the way, but I’ve got to say, I really enjoyed this one, and the artwork was fantastic. The variant is amazing, too.
Jay: This is a good book. The storytelling has yet to blow me away, though the artwork is constantly stellar. Catwoman is consistently strong, if not outstanding.
Elena: I thought the opening in the jewelry store was the weakest part of the book, weirdly. Liked the mayhem in the van and then seeing Selina trounce all the guys at the aquarium. Not much of a throughline in this issue, but the story is progressing.
Josh: See, I feel like the story is going nowhere. I read this issue then thought, “What’s the point? Why do we have this book?” We’re seven issues in, and I can’t find a reason for this book to be on the stands. It’s a pretty book, and there are some nice moments, but overall it’s doing nothing for me.
Elena: Maybe sometimes pretty is all the reason you need. Josh likes dogs, hates pretty. XD
Josh: Well (huff), I’m just going to go sit in my ugly corner with my dog. Haha!
Casper: I still enjoy this book. The main attraction for me is always Joëlle Jones’s artwork, so I’m a bit bummed out that she’s not drawing the book herself this month. But the artwork that we do get matches her aesthetic and it’s still pretty good. I think the story itself isn’t necessarily not going anywhere, but I do think that it takes a really long time to get anywhere. Particularly in this issue I feel like not a whole lot happened. We have the introduction of Penguin in the series, but we don’t really know what he’s up to yet. I think it would have been good if Jones would’ve nailed down why he’s here right at the beginning, so at least we would have had that focus. You can’t just have characters running around and not tell your readership why they are running around. However, I’ll be back next month all the same. It would be good if this story gained some momentum, though.
Justice League Dark #7
Jay: I’ve mostly been enjoying this book, but maaaaaaaan was this a drag. The serialized format was a good idea, harkening back to anthology books like House of Mystery and House of Secrets, but it just didn’t deliver. Until Frankenstein and S.H.A.D.E. showed up, that is. Then there was a brief moment where I was massively entertained.
Brian: FRANK SHOWED UP!?!?!? Now I have to read it.
Jay: About halfway through. You can skip the rest.
Elena: There are some genuinely great horror moments in this book, but the sprawling cast is just a mess. That said, I love seeing Zatara and Sargon most of all, perhaps. I agree with Jay, overall this book has that House of Mystery feel to it, but likewise agree it’s too far afield to really catch that audience specifically. It’s crackballs to try to work a mix like Wonder Woman, Detective Chimp, and Swamp Thing all into the same story. For my money, it just ends up being too weird for words. All that and I still miss Constantine. There. I said it.
Josh: Don’t worry, he’ll be in next week’s Batman. I’m sure that thrills you. Haha! My issue with this is that Tynion has just become lazy. I’ve referenced parallels to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel before, but now we’re getting to the point where he’s just completely lifting stories. We previously had the whole “end magic” problem – which I guess is still going on to a degree – and that’s fine. In fact, I enjoyed that quite a bit… But now… The last story was essentially a beat-for-beat of the end of Angel Season 2. The brothel story here is a lift of the sub-plot from the Angel Season 1 episode “War Zone.” And while I’ve never read I… Vampire, Andrew Bennett looks to be a ripoff of Angel himself. There doesn’t seem to be much originality at this point. It feels like Tynion approached this with, “What if we had Buffy the Vampire Slayer but with DC characters instead?” And then rather than doing something interesting, he just decided to retell stories from the source material, but made each of those stories worse… Meh.
Elena: Reading this made me miss Injustice (seeing Bruno Redondo’s art again!). But…why do we include this book on our list? Someone remind me, because right now it just seems off the grid.
Josh: Well, I was about to go into a whole speech about Titans moving in the right direction, but then Elena had to ask why we even cover this book… I started to say, “Nightwing!” but… yeah… He’s been shot in the head and is presumably still in a coma at this point in time. So, why are we reading this book? Any votes to drop it until Nightwing returns? Or a Bat character in general…
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 drawing I did of Professor Pyg. I’m working on a board game for my own personal enjoyment and this is going to be the lunatic’s character card.