This Week in Comics: Sharks, robots, and 8-breasted squid women

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.

Batgirl #31

Josh: We’re going to go in ABC order this week. Keep everyone on their toes… or not. But, uh, starting with Batgirl, I’ll get us rolling by saying that I thought this was a good read that was wonderfully weird at times.

Jay: I’m enjoying this book more than I have in a while.  While I’m not totally invested in the overall mystery, I feel Babs is being portrayed as the smart, strong, capable character that she is.

Dan: This issue was fine but it included some strange things like that, and a guy made of snot.

Josh: Oh, snot guy… That was definitely a questionable way to start the issue.

Elena: I feel like I was missing something here. I actually liked the snot guy, but he seemed to just sort of come out of nowhere.

Josh: They just needed a throw-away villain, and instead of some average street-level criminal, someone clearly thought Snot-Man would be more interesting. *Shrugs*

Elena: I know this is kind of nitpicky, but Pelletier and Rapmund made Babs’ face absolutely pulverized in this–to the extent that she actually remarks about hiding the bruises from the other campaign volunteers. And yet at the end she casually goes back to work. The art even suggests that the bruises are still there, but nobody says anything. It’s very weird.

Dan: I’m glad I’m not the only one who found that really weird!

Jay: Yeah, that was weird.  Realistic? Sure, but it created more storytelling problems than they were willing to address.

Josh: Agreed. When Babs called to explain why she didn’t show up to the fundraiser, the moment she said she got sick from the shrimp, I wanted to start yelling, “Why don’t you just say you got mugged since everyone’s going to see your bruised, swollen face!?” Come on, Babs. You’re smarter than this.

As for the plot, I liked the political angle. After last month’s issue, I thought this was going to be your standard political script that’s similar to what we hear playing out on CNN every day, but there’s an interesting twist here. I didn’t expect the whole bipartisan effort to shut down Blackgate. It creates some nice motivations for a number of characters.

I am curious to see what’s really going on with Jason Bard. I feel like there’s no redeeming him after Batman Eternal, but DC seems to be trying really hard to make him how he was pre-Flashpoint.

Elena: I don’t know what to make of Bard either, but I’m getting his continuity all jumbled up at this point. I felt like Babs: bristling and hostile. But there he is just wandering around free as anything despite all that’s come before. It’s an interesting element in this story. I’m looking forward to seeing where Scott is going with it.

Josh: Me too. It’s almost as if they’re trying to retcon what went down in Batman Eternal, but they keep referencing it, so… Who knows? Hopefully we’ll find out more next month.


Batman Beyond #28

Josh: I was excited to read this issue… Until I opened the book and remembered there was a Joker-bot. That’s when I moved it to the bottom of my reading list. Well… It was put on top of Old Lady Harley anyway (don’t read that out of context).

Dan: If you’re reading just for the action, this might be the book for you; this whole issue is one big fight! Although the presence of the Joker elevates this above previous arcs, I’m still not into this story. It mercilessly riffs on ‘A Death in the Family’ and the Joker-bot is really naff. That said, I’m fond of Booth’s dynamic style and love how creepy he makes the Joker this time, especially in the scene where he’s cradling Matt’s unconscious body.

Jay: This book is perfectly pleasant without moving me in any particular way.  Still not a huge fan of Booth’s art, but it works.

Josh: Yeah, I’m with you. I enjoy the book enough, but I never find myself racing to the store to get my copy and read it.

Elena: I really wanted to check in on the Joker-bot, but this just didn’t make my read list in time!


Detective Comics #997

Brian: I love this book. Tomasi’s characterization is outstanding, and Mahnke is a rock star.

Jay: If you had asked me to name which characters would be making big comebacks in 2019, Thaddeus Brown would have been pretty far down that list.  And yet, here we are… This issue ruled.

Josh: Indeed. I kind of get the sense we’ll see Thaddeus again soon, too. I mean, how can you have an issue like this and not have him pop back up in the near future? As for the issue itself, I thought it was outstanding! It feels like a classic Batman story, and also jives really well with portions of Snyder and Capullo’s Batman run, especially the earlier stuff. I’m not mad about that.

Dan: The escape scene felt like something from the 40’s-60’s; it was pretty fun!

Josh: If we learned anything from Batman ‘66, it’s that sharks make any Batman story better!

Jay: And death traps!  Don’t forget death traps!

Josh: Oh, I won’t… *smiles devilishly*

Dan: The rest of the issue felt like well-trodden ground but it delivered something semi-insightful and trippy and without lapsing into the kind of nonsense we’re getting in the pages of Batman these days.

Casper: This issue is just great comics fun. I was thoroughly enjoying it all the way through. It’s got a little bit of camp, some serious themes and exciting action. With regards to the action scene, I was actually on the edge of my seat here. Of course I knew that Batman was going to be fine and I was fairly certain that Thaddeus would be fine as well, but I was mostly just asking myself how the heck these guys were going to get out of this. The way they pulled off their escape artistry was really cool. I like how they worked together. I am slightly disappointed that Thaddeus and Bruce aren’t teaming up for the remaining part of the arc, though, but of course I’m not holding this against the book or the creative team. This is Bruce’s story, not Thaddeus’s. It makes sense for Bruce to go on alone.

Josh: I was disappointed as well… But then I thought that if Thaddeus went along, he might get killed. Because of that, I’m happy that he’s sitting this one out.

Jay: True, but at least Bruce wasn’t a jerk about it.  You could tell he was trying to protect Thaddeus, not alienate him.  Given what happened to Leslie that’s perfectly reasonable.

Josh: Oh, yeah! I’m still bummed about Leslie, I don’t need to be bummed about Thaddeus as well. I’d be all over Tomasi’s Twitter feed having a Chris Crocker “Leave Batman’s teachers alone!” mental breakdown.

Elena: I think we are all disappointed that Thaddeus didn’t continue on the journey with Batman. I can’t tell you the last time I fell in love with a character so quickly. Tomasi had the magic touch with our magic man.  

Josh: Now, I want to ask, the reveal of Hugo Strange… Are we supposed to believe he’s the one behind all of this? I may have missed something, but I was trying to figure out what caused Batman to go after him. I’m curious to get our readers’ thoughts as well. So, if you’re reading this, chime in below!


Heroes in Crisis #5

Josh: My review is up for everyone to read, but I’m sure I’ll be commenting throughout the discussion as well. What I will say is this, each month when Heroes in Crisis rolls around, I read it, and I don’t like it. Then I start analyzing it, and I have to go back and change what I’ve started writing in my review because I find subtle moments or bits of information, and it forces me to look at it from a different perspective. If I were reading this casually, I can’t say that I’d enjoy it. But being forced to really dig into the book has pushed me to appreciate it for what it is.

Dan: Batgirl caught a bad case of Tom King’s weird speech thing where everyone sounds like a drunk Captain Kirk.

Josh: Ha! I’m stealing that for a future review!

Dan: Then Booster Gold and Blue Beetle suddenly got a lot dumber, then a lot more intelligent.

Casper: I recognize this book’s flaws and I get why people may not like the way King writes Booster and Blue Beetle, but it just happens to be an aspect of the book that I enjoy very much.

Josh: Yeah, I like them together.

Casper: It’s inconsistent, like Dan pointed out. They are really dumb and silly and then suddenly intelligent and then dumb and silly again.I also don’t think that Booster and Beetle are the right characters for what King wants to do with them. And yet I just can’t help but be really amused and entertained when I read their scenes. It makes me laugh. Mostly because I’m not taking it too seriously. In a book that has pretty heavy themes, I like that there is some silliness as well to take the edge off.

Josh: Completely agree. I view their stupidity with one another the same way I view my behavior with my closest friends. We typically look like idiots when we’re together. We’re not idiots, but I’m sure we come off that way.

Jay: Superman’s speech wasn’t particularly illuminating, but I appreciated its intent.  

Dan: I guess that’s often the case with public speeches; figureheads turn up and confirm what we already know. I loved the part where he described healing: ‘It is not the mark of a madman. It is the wound of a warrior.’ King has something important to say with this series but it just gets lost sometimes.

Josh: Yeah, I thought that was a great line, Dan. I found Superman’s speech much more appealing when I read it in its entirety, uninterrupted. The “noise” of everything else kind of diminished its impact.

Jay: Besides that, this book continues to be an absolute drag.  The final page alone sucked all the fun and joy out of comics forever.

Elena: Just go read Detective Comics no. 997 again: it will cure what ails you!  

Josh: I mean… I won’t disagree with Elena on that one, but “sucked all of the fun and joy out of comics forever?” Come on. First, let’s admit the joke was funny. I actually laughed. As for the bottom of that page, I mean… We’re not really treading new territory by addressing that Joker was abusive with Harley. It’s known. This is just one of the few instances where it isn’t explored with a slap-stick approach. I thought the page was powerful. Not only does the abuse still bother Harley, but based on her physical reaction, she’s ashamed of it too. She can’t even bring herself to look at an AI when discussing it. It may not be a moment meant for me, or a moment for you, but I’m willing to bet that someone out there has been in, or is in, an abusive relationship, and this probably hit home for them.

I’m usually critical of people projecting onto characters or books, especially when it feels out of place, but this is one of the few instances where I don’t mind it. I think we can all agree that it’s clear Tom King probably suffers from some type of trauma himself – there’s no telling what he had to do or saw in the CIA, especially after reading Sheriff of Babylon – and when he writes these heroes on these missions, it probably takes him back to some dark places. I don’t think it’s outside of the lane to take this concept and apply it to the trauma our heroes endure every day.

Jay: I’m all about a comic that explores the trauma that superheroes endure on a daily basis, but that’s not what this is.  It says it’s about the psychological effects of heroism and living through various crises, but that’s not the case at all.  The confessionals are just there without any further context or exploration, telling us that these characters are damaged and nothing more.  Ultimately it’s a half-baked mystery set against an interesting idea that never takes off.

Josh: I think people were expecting a deep exploration into a character’s trauma, and no, this isn’t that. This is the point I made in my review. If you wallow in a single character’s trauma, then that’s going to be more depressing than the book already is. Instead, King is showing how far-reaching trauma is for superheroes. As for there not being any context, the context is previous stories: Death of Superman, Knightfall, The Killing Joke, Blackest Night, etc. We don’t expect any other book or story to recap those events when addressing them, so why should we expect that here?

Whether or not this is a half-baked mystery… That remains to be seen. DC upping the issue count from seven issues to nine issues didn’t do this book any favors, but if that forced King to come up with filler, I can’t blame him for that.

Dan: I’m still interested in the Sanctuary tapes; I feel like that was King’s excellent starting point and that the rest of the story has unraveled (at times, questionably) from there. Mann’s art remains stunning; the shot of Adam Strange would make a great poster.

Casper: Mann’s art was really good this month and I’m going to agree with Dan again: that Adam Strange shot is incredible!

Josh: Yeah, Mann’s art is great. Apparently he threw out his back while working on this book. And as cool as that Adam Strange panel is, I loved the page with Swamp Thing, Zatana, Kori, and others.

Brian: It looks great, but I can’t get into this book. Tom King is writing two books (he was writing three before MM wrapped up), and he writes them all the same way. I’ve got TK fatigue, which is something I never thought I’d say.

Josh: You know what, Brian? I’ll completely back you up on that statement. It appears that he only has one style of writing, and that’s not going to support a long career. I’ve made the comment that King needs to co-write with people more often, and this is why. He has some wonderful ideas, but they all begin to feel the same because he approaches them with the same execution.


Justice League Annual #1

Brian: My review pretty much sums up my feelings, but in short: the good ideas are getting distorted by uninspiring words and pictures.

Dan: The first double-page spread in this issue features a wall of words much more frightening than the Source Wall. Mr Tynion is up to his old tricks again, bombarding the reader with information.

Elena: This book is a masterclass in how not to do exposition.  

Josh: Yeah, I can’t figure out why they’re approaching Justice League in this way either. They’re writing the script as if it’s a novel. I mean, the whole point of a comic/ graphic novel is for the images to prevent the need for so much exposition. In addition to that, Tynion repeats himself at times. There’ll be exposition pertaining to what’s about to happen, then he’d have Starman tell Kendra what’s about to happen… Once is enough.

Dan: There’s clunky dialogue too; Hawkgirl says ‘I’ve got that suit Starman designed for me and I’m moving into position’ when we can clearly see this from the artwork.

Josh: I feel like this may have been there to prevent readers from going, “Where did this suit come from?” The entire story just kind of happened out of nowhere. I felt like I’d missed a story or small arc going into this issue, so it took me a while to get my bearings.

Dan: Nonetheless, I enjoyed this issue way more than issue #16. I’m glad the story suggested by the annual’s cover turned out to be a ruse as what we get instead is much more interesting, and the epic nature of it is exacerbated by the welcome presence of the Green Lantern Corps, Justice League Dark, New Gods, Hawkmen, Titans, Justice Incarnate and the Legion of Doom.

Josh: This was definitely better than what the cover suggested! I know I’m complaining about the exposition and the clunky start of the issue, but overall I thought it was really good. The issue definitely set-up one hell of a story. I just hope Snyder takes his time to tell it. I don’t want to blow through a narrative this big. Let’s live in this world and savor it a bit.

Dan: By the way, what have the Omega Titans been up to since ‘No Justice’? Have they been left to rampage and gobble up planets?

Josh: They’ve been rolling up to planets like they’re the drive-thru. It would’ve been hilarious if they’d been drawn slightly more pudgey than when we saw them in No Justice. Haha!

Jay: You’ve all said what I feel: good intentions, great ideas, and gorgeous art, it’s just the script that’s lacking.


Justice League Odyssey #5

Josh: Ugh… Look, I thought this was the best issue of JLO so far, but it’s really hard to find positive things to say about it. Somebody help me.

Elena: Pretty pictures. Like Azrael?  How about a whole fleet of ‘im?

Josh: … Yeah. That’ll do.

Dan: I’ve complained before about this but I’ll do it again anyway: Jessica’s only function in this series is to transport the other heroes around.

Jay: Hardly anything about this book has a point or purpose, so feeling like Jessica is superfluous is pretty telling.

Josh: Whenever I read this book, I feel like random things are happening just for the sake of having them happen. Then again, that’s pretty much how I feel about all of Joshua Williamson’s scripts. And you’d think that you could at least find some enjoyment in the action, but…

Dan: The fight scenes feel silly and don’t happen organically. Giandomenico is a good choice of artist as his style isn’t a ghost sector away from Sejic’s. Darkseid’s ‘revelation’ was not a surprise at all.

Josh: It really wasn’t.

Brian: I have zero interest in reading this book, even though it has Cyborg, one of my favorites.

Jay: The original idea was kind of fun, but this “different planets treat them like gods” story is just silly.  I’m not invested at all.

Josh: Nope. If DC had tied this book more closely to the main Justice League title, and if we’d had five issues of this team researching/ combating the Source Wall, before leading into the Justice League Annual, it could’ve been really good… But nope. We just get nonsense.


Old Lady Harley #4

Elena: I have deeply mixed feelings about this comic: mostly a mixture of disgust and exhaustion. That said, I rather enjoyed all the weird fishiness and fish creatures and the mermaid buffet. I even cracked a smile at Green Lantern’s creepy sex bunnies all toppled in a heap. I was almost but not quite amused by Red Tool being crushed under the two-thonged, many-breasted lap dancer.  I threw up in my mouth a little at just about everything else. But what I’m not amused at is that this was 100% delay-of-game getting to the Joker after he was full-frontal teased in the last issue. Boo on that.

Dan: Full-frontal Joker? Isn’t that the title of the next issue of Batman: Damned?

Elena: Probably should be. Ha!

Jay: Passola.

Josh: Forget putting this on the bottom of my reading pile… This is at the bottom of the stack that I might get to reading ten years from now… Just saying… However, when confirming the cover artists, I saw a page of Lobo with a gut. I’m not going to lie, I laughed at the mere image of this, and this might make me circle back to the book sooner rather than later.


Silencer #13

Brian: This book was my favorite “New Age” title, but I got behind and haven’t caught up yet.

Jay: It’s still far and away the best, and continues to be really good.  Honor is a great character, and her backstory is pretty involving. Interested to see where Abnett takes this.

Josh: Yeah, I think that’s the key to this book’s success. Honor is a great, fully realized character. And every time I think I’ve got Abnett’s direction figured out, he takes the title down an unexpected path. This issue nicely gave us a glimpse into Honor’s past, and I loved the loose connections that were presented through Spyral and the League of Assassins. I’m still not the biggest fan of all of these tech/ modified assassins, but that’s honestly my biggest gripe. If you’re not reading this book, go check it out at some point!


Teen Titans Annual #1

Jay: Haven’t read this title in a year.

Josh: This Annual was definitely better than recent issues. The conflict between Damian and Jason felt forced, but there were some good zings in there. The best part was definitely the glimpse into Djinn’s history. She’s been one of the more interesting characters since this run launched, and I wish we could just focus on her/ The Other for now. I enjoy Crush and Roundhouse enough, but Glass is currently taking an issue to focus on the plot, then taking an issue to provide more insight into one of these new characters. It’s just causing everything to move at a snail’s pace. Overall though, this is a decent read.