This Week in Comics: Bruce talks to his inner child, the review team gets emotional

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.


Detective Comics #999

Jay: Man.


Elena: +1

Josh: I think we can safely say this was not how we expected this story to end… This is a compliment. Just clarifying.

Jay: The twist here toed the line in regards to being a little too cornball, but I think Tomasi landed it perfectly.  This is the best Batman story arc in a long, long time. I love how it ended on an optimistic note.

Brian: Little Bruce-in-the-grave (and by extension, Tomasi) knows what’s up. Everybody else playing at writing Batman needs to take notice.

Elena:  +1

Dan: That’s the bit that really got to me. Bruce burying the boy he can never be again. I think I need a moment to compose myself…

Elena: +1 with tissues.

Josh: Right? I felt a full range of emotions while reading this issue, and wasn’t sure I liked it at first. Tomasi delivered though. Elena was right in her review. This is Batman!

Dan: I also loved the Roosevelt quote at the very end; it was appropriate for the story and a strong message for the readers. This is my Batman; a man (albeit fictional) that actually inspires me to be a better person.

Elena: I didn’t say anything in my review about the quote because I have a strong personal problem with Roosevelt as an American “hero” juxtaposed with Batman. That said, it’s nonetheless nicely apropos.

Josh: Yes! It was almost as if this entire arc was Tomasi saying, “Let me show you how this is done,” to a certain comic book writer that is currently writing another Batman title… I won’t name any names. Haha!

Casper: Never mind showing how it’s done to a “certain comic book writer” — this is a crash course in how to write Batman in general!

Elena: I return to handing out +1s.

Dan: Okay, so the 2.1 Program is kind of an insult to Batman’s rogues gallery, and the shot of multiple Batsuits could have benefited from a few more Easter eggs (Mahnke more than makes up for it with perfect, detailed shots of Bruce’s face and that amazing wall of Gotham victims). Otherwise, this was an exemplary end to the arc. Thanks to the genuinely surprising twist, the first read-through knocked me for six and I didn’t know what to think, but by the time I was a couple of frames into a second look, I was totally sold on this. Well done Tomasi, Mahnke et al!

Josh: Yeah, everyone involved with this killed it! I can’t tell you how happy I am with this book. Speaking of happy, I want to talk about the ending, so… spoilers if you haven’t read this issue yet. Bruce, Leslie, and Alfred. This was easily one of my favorite scenes in recent years. I loved seeing these three together, and I can’t recall a scene like this since the pre-Flashpoint days. There’s something to be said about ensembles and supporting characters. They add a weight and realism/ relatability to books… Tomasi gets this. DC and other writers need to take note.

Casper: Yes! The ending was fantastic! We see Bruce, in the company of two trusted companions, actually smiling. I love it when Bruce smiles and genuinely is in a good mood. The dude’s not a happy man and has his share of demons, but that doesn’t mean he can’t have happy moments every now and then.

Anyway, to all Batman readers out there: trust me, Detective Comics is where it’s at right now. Who’s ready for #1000?

Elena: +1 on all points.


Justice League Odyssey #6

Jay: Abnett’s writing is more focused than Williamson’s, and this is the best issue so far, but it still isn’t great.

Dan: The panels are cramped, Azrael is strangely cold to Kory’s grief, and we’ve been given no reason to care what Darkseid is up to.  A dull argument between the Odyssey team (in which they pointlessly reiterate information we’ve already been given) is only livened up by Jessica’s absurd, unnatural gesticulation. I thought I might fall asleep, but mercifully Blackfire showed up and chewed the scenery like beef jerky.

Elena: No Batman, no read.


Silencer #14

Jay: Silencer continues to be one of the most consistently entertaining books in the DC stable.  This issue is no exception.

Brian: You can see my thoughts here, but basically: I got back into this series with the issue where Talia threatened, then killed Honor (was that last issue?), and I’m glad I did. The characters are still excellent, Honor is still the best new hero at DC, and V Ken Marion was the absolute perfect artist to bring into this.

I think my favorite thing about this particular issue is how Abnett weaves these parallel threads with Honor and her husband, and we think that maybe he’s going to track her down and remind her, or something like that. But then we find out that the baddest assassin in the DCU (come at me, Deathstroke) never actually went anywhere, and that the real her is just hiding out in her head, waiting for her moment.

Bottom line, Silencer is a character who deserves to stick around. I know her current book isn’t likely to have some enormous run, but whenever they cancel this, I hope that it isn’t long before she shows up in other places, or gets another shot at a solo title.


Old Lady Harley #5

Jay: Pass.

Brian: Nope.

Dan: I couldn’t agree more.

Josh: Well… I did just buy a bottle of whiskey… If there were any time to read this…

Also, did I just inadvertently create a new post? Drunken Reviews with Josh. Actually, let’s not do that. I tend to be brash without the influence of alcohol.

Casper: I’d love to read those drunken reviews, though.

Elena: Well I know the rest of you couldn’t stomach this and there are parts of it beyond the pale of weird and dumb, but I actually liked the spirit of it, I liked the happy ending, I liked the over-the-top ridiculous melodrama. Would I ever recommend this? Probably not. But I think Tieri wrote a good solid story, even if it’s waaaay off the beaten path.

And at the end of the day the heart of it is in the right place, which is I think what Tieri really has going for him with writing for Harley. As long as Harley’s writers lean into that more, she can still be an interesting, complex, and fun character.  I’d give the whole messy shebang a solid 7, frankly. It’s not for everyone, but for the people who like this level of crazy alternate universe storytelling, it’s pretty darn satisfying.


Heroes in Crisis #6

Jay: I like how Gnarrk doesn’t know what ‘save’ means but he is familiar with Nineteenth Century English Romantic poetry.

Brian: That’s because Gnarrk is this month’s Tom King Avatar®️

Dan: Oh God, there was so much Gnarrk in this issue! A whole page of Keats and an entire beginner’s curriculum in philosophy were not what we needed at this juncture. Flashbacks are fine when they serve a purpose, but the plot didn’t progress and if this issue were removed from the series, it would make no difference to the story.

Josh: Exactly!… To everything that was just said.

Dan: If you ignore King’s stilted, self-aware dialogue, the splash page in which Gerads portrays Harley and Ivy comforting each other is quite lovely.

Josh: It really is. I thought these two were the best part of this issue. Everything else was old news. And I found it odd to focus on Gnarrk’s trauma, because his trauma doesn’t really have anything to do with being a hero. His trauma is just that he’s a man out of place in time. I mean, that a worthy story to explore, but it doesn’t align with the point of this book.

Casper: I actually kinda like Gnarrk’s scenes because they were somewhat different from the others. But overall I’m not all that excited about this issue, either. While I didn’t strictly mind the Harley/Ivy scenes, the way that the dialogue was set up was really kinda bugging me. I’m not sure how you guys feel about this, but I especially dislike the full page splash with Harley and Ivy sitting on the floor talking, and the entire page is filled with word balloons. It reminds me of how Bendis sometimes structures his dialogue and it’s a big reason why I’m generally speaking not into Bendis’ writing. I’ve always been able to read King’s dialogue just fine, but I dislike his dialogue in this issue for the same reason I tend to dislike Bendis’ dialogue: characters are just repeating what the other character said before them and the ebb and flow of the conversation is pretty much nonexistent. It’s artificial and dull and just lazy.

Elena: Honestly, I loved the art in this book. The alternation between three and six-panel (or variations thereof) spreads with the splash pages, and just some of the lovely creative pov shots (like the overhead one with Wally crawling into bed)–just beautiful and evocative visuals. That said, I felt no compunction to actually read this book after Gnarrk’s naked poetry reading. Very pretty to look at, though. Credit to Mann and Gerads.


The Flash #65

Josh: So… “The Price” is a thing. It happened. I’m not sure why it happened, but it did…

Elena: Honestly, I’m just going to pretend it didn’t.

Jay: On a positive note: now we don’t need to read The Flash anymore.

Josh: Very true.

Brian: Since this was so awful, I kind of wish some bizarre things had happened. For instance, how about instead of Gotham Girl getting subdued, she rips Barry’s skull off with the spine attached, and then swings it around shooting Speed Force lightning at Batman?

Dan: That would have been so much better!

Josh: Yes! They need to do another Mortal Kombat/ DC crossover game just for the sake of including this as Gotham Girl’s finisher!

On a serious note, I’d like to get some more detailed thoughts from you guys on this. I wrote the review, then checked out other reviews and walked away feeling like I completely missed something. Other people are loving this issue, and I’m just over here shaking my head thinking, “I don’t get it… Did we read the same issue?”

Dan: Poor characterisation and an illogical, inconsequential plot is not what we should expect from a crossover event in two of the biggest books in the business from one of the genre’s leading companies…but that’s exactly what we got. The only good thing about this issue was Sandoval’s art, particularly his depiction of Bruce without his mask.

Casper: Yeah, I like Sandoval’s art too! Nice fit for a superhero book.

Elena: I disagree about the art. There’s only so many constipated screamy faces I can stand to look at. I thought unmasked Bruce was yarchy at best. The action is nice, but there’s almost no distinguishing personalities from character to character (at least to my eye).

Casper: But the writing? I honestly feel unfulfilled after reading this crossover event because I feel like nothing really happened. It’s like Williams was building up something that never came to pass. All setup and no punchline. This could’ve been such a cool team-up event, but it ends up being no more than just a collection of missed opportunities. The story literally went nowhere.

Josh: That’s my take on this. Had this story revived Gotham and kept him, while also revealing who was behind all of these experiments, and had it actually explained what Gotham Girl’s intent was… Then it may have been worthwhile. But it didn’t accomplish any of those things.


Batman Beyond #29

Jay: Too pat and neat an ending for an arc that really wasn’t that involving to begin with.

Dan: The Joker isn’t scary here.

Elena: I completely agree. I opened this up, looked at the pictures, read the first couple of pages and it lacked so much of the menace it needed, I didn’t continue.

Dan: Drawing him gives an artist a lot of license because he has such extraordinary proportions; it’s hard to get it wrong and yet in this issue, he just looks like an imbecile. The nine panel page at the beginning of the book could have been used to showcase his changeable nature, but instead it’s just one long rant that even includes some incredibly uncharacteristic self-deprecation.

His obsession with the mystery ‘Bruce’ is also irritating. Aside from the way Jurgens makes up continuity as he goes along (as pointed out in my review for issue #26, Jurgens uses aspects of the TV show and of Rebirth as he sees fit. Evidently, he’s ignoring the fact that in the current continuity, the Joker knows Batman’s identity), there aren’t that many prominent Gotham citizens called Bruce who are around the Joker’s age and can afford high-tech gadgets and vehicles.

The Bruce in question is also out of sorts here. In one scene, he’s a hapless, despairing victim and in another, he narrates his actions when dodging the Joker’s crowbar. Hardly the steely, tactical mind we’re used to.

Though I’m fond of the way Booth draws Terry, I couldn’t help but notice that this arc ended in the same way as many in the series; with someone other than the eponymous hero defeating the villain.


Batgirl #32

Josh: I thought this was a solid issue overall. Whenever politics are involved, I always grow concerned that it will be preachy or one-sided, and this has refrained from doing that. I respect it.

Jay: Jason Bard still sucks, which tracks.

Elena: I busted out laughing when he got shot in the leg. Take that, dirtbag!

Josh: I mean… I kind of liked him here. I think he could have taken a non-lethal shot, but I believe anyone that’s a cop or former military would have done the same thing in that moment. This is, potentially, one of the great debates between heroes.

Dan: Thankfully, there were no snot monsters this time. Nonetheless, this was a weak issue, bringing the threat of Cormorant to an abrupt, anticlimactic end, with plenty of confusing artwork.

Josh: Welp, I guess I’m in the minority here. Haha!

Elena: No, I’m with you, Josh. I enjoyed this and the ghoul in me loved how violent it was. Exploding hands and heads. This was pretty  bloody for a Batgirl comic.

Josh: Cormorant did come to an abrupt end, but I am curious to see who is behind this, and who the “next bullet” will be. It also appears that Scott isn’t looking to tell a story that begins and ends within a single arc, so I appreciate that. This arc felt like a chapter of a larger story.

Elena: I agree. I like that she’s layering in a whole world for Babs to inhabit. I’d like to see her paired with a stronger artist, though. This felt very rushed, lots of awkward angles, unattractive faces, weird gestures. That one panel where Bard grabs Batgirl by the arm was just a big no-no in my book.