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.
Red Hood: Outlaw #32
Josh: Red Hood: Outlaw #32, the issue where Red Hood returns to Gotham and takes over the Iceberg Lounge… And that’s not even the most ridiculous thing in this issue.
Jay: Yeah, I liked the idea here, but don’t think that the execution landed.
Elena: I think I’m in the minority on this one, but I thought Jason causing Bruce to flee with such a threat was just flat out ridiculous.
Josh: Yep, this is exactly what I was referring to.
Elena: I couldn’t get past that at all. As if Batman has never considered this before? As if Batman doesn’t have contingencies? As if Batman runs away from a villain with that silly cursing expression on his face like: “Drat, you win this time, Snidely!” Sorry, but I thought this was milk and potatoes through and through. Another case of making Batman look like a dundering novice so that the “star” of the book can be the “badass”. Nope. Not buying it.
Dan: It’s perplexing that Jason seems to outwit Bruce in this issue, but otherwise it’s an enjoyable set-up. There’s a strange absence of action here; instead, Lobdell sets the pieces out on the board in such a way that you’re left with the feeling that the forthcoming game is a promising one.
Josh: Lobdell is definitely setting the pieces out on the board, but I can’t decide if his approach is good or not. I mean, I kind of like the idea of Jason running the Iceberg Lounge… But I wish this was Under the Red Hood Jason. You know? The Red Hood that leaned more villain than the current version which barely qualifies as an antihero. Am I alone in feeling this way?
Casper: You’re not alone, Josh.
Jay: The fact that they’re still trying to push Jason as an antihero is ludicrous and, frankly, boring. As much as I’m not a fan of the character (…pretty sure that’s not grammatically correct, but whatever), his history and circumstances make so much more sense with him being a villain.
Brian: Wow, I gave it an 8.5. I’ll go back to my dungeon…
But seriously: Bruce retreating would be problematic if I thought it was an actual retreat and not a tactical call. Jason’s right that it wouldn’t look good if they had to explain why Jason Todd—not Red Hood—is getting taken down.
Lobdell isn’t afraid to let Batman be Batman—Bruce beat the crap out of Jason without breaking a sweat after he shot Cobblepot, and if it weren’t for Bizarro the Brilliant zipping him away, he’d be eating like a king behind bars in the rocks beneath Wayne Manor.
Josh: That’s a fair point to make.
Casper: I still don’t see why I should be following Jason’s adventures. I think I just missed out on the good Rebirth stuff, but most of the Red Hood comics I’ve read were kinda bad. I just don’t really want to get invested in a series which might be good every now and then but overall isn’t my cup of tea.
Josh: I want to touch on the people he brought into the fold with him. Most of these characters I could do without. I mean, I like Bunker enough and look forward to learning more about him, but Susie Su and her sisters? No. Wingman? No. And who is he anyway? We still don’t even have a name. This random guy stole Jason’s codename from Battle For the Cowl, knows that Jason is Red Hood, and despite knowing nothing about him, Jason’s just like, “Yeah bro, come work for me.”
Also, as a dog lover, I think we need to help Scott Lobdell come up with a name for the dog. I’d love to hear your suggestions and maybe we can slip them to him. I’m going with… Crowbar.
Casper: With Red Hood, it always goes back to crowbars. Poor Jason XD
Dan: Segovia has some great moments in this issue. A splash page of Gotham utilizes a clever technique wherein the curve of the building we’re viewing the city from, along with the curve of the elevated train tracks, adds to the sense of vertigo. His angry, well-proportioned Batman is reminiscent of Clay Mann’s, while the Iceberg Lounge looks like a real place, complete with ships arriving, light glinting off the water, strobes illuminating the clouds above, and people outside the casino sitting under canopies.
At one point, we’re not told directly that what we’re seeing is a flashback. However, together with the scene’s washed-out colours, I think the brown lettering used here is a great way to inform the reader they’re witnessing a reminiscence.
Josh: Yeah, the art is fantastic! That’s one thing this title has never really struggled with. The art has always been incredibly good! Alright, let’s move on. But before we do, Elena, you need to make an audio recording of you saying “Drat, you win this time, Snidely!” It would be an awesome inclusion for a soundboard – especially if you perform it as if it were a lost scene from Batman ‘66. Just saying…
Justice League Dark #9
Dan: There’s a lot going on in this issue but if you’ve been on board throughout the series, this makes for a decent romp, without too much concentration. There’s exciting action featuring Etrigan, the plot moves forward satisfyingly, and Circe brings the sass and swagger.
Jay: Agreed. This book isn’t always on, but it’s been good more often than not and this was no exception.
Josh: I completely agree! I thought this was a wonderful issue that built nicely on last month’s debut of this story. There’s a lot to sink your teeth into here. You’ve got the majority of the team trying to wrangle and save the magic community, and then you have Wonder Woman and Zatana on their mission, as well as Langstrom doing his thing. And all are equally interesting.
I’ve also enjoyed the inclusion of Etrigan. I fully expected the cover to be misleading, so when Etrigan and Jason Blood were ripped apart, it was a nice, shocking moment for me. Granted, some of our team may have cheered a little during this moment. Who didn’t like Etrigan, again? Was it Brian or Elena? Or both?
Jay: Me and Brian.
Josh: Well… I missed the mark on that one. Haha!
Josh: I’m curious to get everyone’s thoughts on Doctor Fate.
Jay: Other than a passing knowledge and familiarity with him I don’t have much exposure to Fate, but it is pretty bold making Nabu so villainous. Diehards (or “Fatefuls” as I just decided to christen them) may take issue, but I’m at least interested enough to see where the story’s going.
Brian: I think there’s precedent for him at least being very unlikeable, if for no other reason than that the wearer of the Helmet is essentially a prisoner.
I didn’t read this issue, but I did flip through, and it was interesting for me seeing Khalid, the DCYou Doctor Fate. He had an interesting story back then, even if DC was maybe ripping off Ms. Marvel a little bit (that Khalid was a med student in NY and not a high school student in Jersey City is just a superficial detail). That book also had very distinct artwork from Sonny Lieu, and that makes me long for the very distinct artwork of that little phase at the end of New 52. You had Doc Fate with Lieu, Bagenda and Fajardo on Omega Men, Eddy Barrows straight owning Martian Manhunter—those was the days.
Josh: There was some good. You could definitely see finger prints of the creative teams on those books, and I appreciated that. I never read the DCYou Doctor Fate, but I did enjoy Khalid in Earth 2 back when that book was kicking ass in the New 52! If you never read those early volumes, I highly recommend them!
Dan: I don’t understand why Fate is replacing one kind of chaos with another (the Otherkind), Sister Symmetry and Brother Pattern made me snigger, and I don’t really care what happens to Myrra, but these are pretty minor drawbacks.
Josh: You know, I didn’t really stop to think about that… Maybe there’s something Fate knows that we don’t, or perhaps he sees a better opportunity for self-preservation in the scenario he’s choosing to back. I don’t need answers now, but I hope Tynion addresses this at some point. Any thoughts on the art?
Dan: As usual, Martínez Bueno delivers a feast for the eyes. The highlight of this issue is his incredible layouts; a story told in the reflections of Fate’s mask, wonky panels in the Escher-inspired rooms of the Tower of Fate, and a page divided by the rays emanating from the ruby of life. Even in tiny panels and dramatic scenes where the eye is drawn to the characters, Martínez imbues the backgrounds with plenty of detail. His aptitude for grim, stony expressions and his command of shadow will serve him well in his upcoming gig in Detective Comics #1000.
Casper: Dude, I’m with you there. The art in this was really good. My favorite panels are the ones showing the Tower of Fate. Speaking of which, I’ve always really liked Dr. Fate. I haven’t read a lot of Dr. Fate comics, but the ones that I did read were pretty cool. Nabu being evil is an interesting new take as well — I can’t remember having seen Nabu like this before. Maybe I’ll start reading more JLD just for that Dr. Fate stuff. I’m intrigued.
Josh: I’ll piggyback the art praise! You both touched on aspects that I enjoy, but I also love how detailed the world-building is. There’s so much texture and character in the various realms we’re visiting that I don’t need written context to understand it. It’s impressive.
Josh: Catwoman #9 is a one-and-done story that doesn’t really deliver.
Dan: This issue is not my saucer of milk. It doesn’t pick up where the previous issue left off, there’s no explanation for Selina surviving a gunshot, the layouts are cramped, and a lot of page space is wasted with daft, oversized ‘cha cha cha’ text. The only thing that could possibly tempt me to pick this up is Artgerm’s awesome, alluring variant cover.
Elena: I’m a fan of John Timms’ work and I liked his art here. I actually liked the cha cha cha as just sort of weird soundtrack thing. It especially worked on the final page for me, so that was payoff enough.
Jay: I like heists, and I like one-and-done issues. This didn’t quite scratch either issue. Lots of promise that ultimately fell short.
Josh: Yeah, you both touched on aspects that didn’t play well for this issue. In the grand scheme of things, this is a disconnected story in a book that already feels unfocused and clunky from a narrative standpoint. More than anything, Catwoman needs some direction and momentum, and a one-and-done story – a mediocre one at that – isn’t going to accomplish either of those tasks. This was, strategically, a bad move. I haven’t looked at sales numbers, but I have to wonder if Catwoman has much life left. It seems the only selling point DC had going into this was “It’s Catwoman post Batman #50.” As we can tell, that “hype” lasted for about an issue or two.
Casper: It’s like the book lacks energy. I was entertained for the 10 minutes it took me to read this issue, but it’s all so forgettable. I hope that next time, Jones will deliver a really good and compelling story. But really, I’m considering dropping this from my pull list, because things aren’t moving in a way that excites or interests me.
Elena: I agree it’s mostly fluff here, but I really enjoyed it. I laughed out loud at the “Detective Dean Hadley” announcement. I don’t know Ram V’s work at all, but I thought this was cheeky and entertaining and it didn’t bother me that it took a break from the sometimes overly serious treatment of Catwoman in this series so far.
Josh: My concern is that since this was a fill-in writer and artists, we won’t see Hadley again… Which is a shame because I kind of liked him. Also, I totally thought Chad Hardin was covering art duties when reading this. I was surprised to find out I was wrong when I got to the credits.
The Batman Who Laughs: The Grim Knight #1
Dan: Who hasn’t wondered how Batman would behave if he acted out of revenge instead of a desire to bring justice to Gotham? This alternative, morbid retelling of ‘Year One’ is thrilling, tragic, strangely amusing, and thought-provoking.
Elena: I honestly haven’t wondered and it’s a subversion of the character I’m kind of tired of at this point (Revenge Batman Fatigue: ask your doctor if you suffer from RBF). Kvetching and jokes aside, however, I agree that this is a strong book (both in the art and the writing). The concept of the Batman who Laughs, remains more interesting to me than the execution, however. I find myself just sort of admiring the pictures and not really interested in the words because it feels predictable and, well, just nicely “packaged” like a glossy WB TV show (but always much more violent). It’s hard to find balance with wanting the kinds of stories we’ve been told in the past and wanting something totally new. That’s a tension tightrope Batman writers walk all the time and for me Snyder and Tynion’s vision (in the regular Batbooks or in these alternate realities) just never seems to find the right equilibrium for me.
Josh: I haven’t either. This is the entire concept of Huntress. She acts (or acted would be more appropriate) out of revenge instead of seeking justice. Hell, this is even Jason Todd to a degree. I don’t know… There were elements of this that I enjoyed – mainly the ties to classic stories – but then there were other aspects that felt off. I’m not sure if I enjoyed this because it was a good story, or if it was a nice nod to classic stories.
Casper: Technically, the comic is put together really well. The pacing, the dialogue, the way that the framing sequence sets up certain flashback scenes, and the artwork is all really good. It’s just a really solid comic!
Dan: You’re right! The action in the present is a good excuse for a flashback because Gordon is central to both narratives. Also, because interesting stuff is going on in the present day, this is a tie-in that actually feels like a worthy, essential part of the Batman Who Laughs story.
Josh: I agree with you there, this definitely feels like a worthy tie-in! I guess for me, the elements that didn’t seem to play well were 1. Jim’s disappearance on Grim Knight’s world. 2. Jim beating Bruce in hand-to-hand combat. 3. The transition of Grim Knight saying the Batman Who Laughs’ plans for Jim isn’t enough, then the reversal at the end.
Other than that, I loved the reimaginings of Detective Comics #27, Year One, and so on. I was not a fan of the art though.
Casper: Not a fan of the art?! Ah well, to each their own.
Josh: No… I mean, I respect that it’s painted, but there were times where it was too inconsistent for my taste and the faces looked weird. I also felt Risso was trying to convey Miller’s look, and I’m also not a fan of that. Some moments were good, it just didn’t jive with me. I know I’m in the minority here. Sorry everyone.
Brian: I LOVED the artwork. Risso’s storytelling is very economical and impactful, and I could look at this book all day. Casper got me thinking about the colors, too, and Stewart nails those. I love the more rendered flashbacks set against the (fairly) flat present-day stuff.
As for the Revenge Batman thing, I don’t know. It’s something that, in concept, I hate, but I can’t seem to get enough of these sorts of stories. I didn’t love Metal, and I didn’t even love the evil Batmen one-shots, but it was still neat seeing how they fell (yes, even Bryce and her beloved Sylvester Kyle).
Elena: Funny you should mention Bryce and Sylvester; they were the most interesting/memorable part of Metal for me.
Brian: I thought the external references made this particularly strong, because they set up a stronger-than-usual deterministic motif in this story: the major pieces of Bruce’s life cannot be avoided, no matter what you do with the connective tissue. His parents die, he becomes a Bat, he makes war on criminals. The truly dark thing here is that Bruce’s goodness is not one of those unshakeable pillars, that our Bruce Wayne could have just as easily gone the way of the Grim Knight, given an alternate flapping of butterfly wings in Japan (or capes in Metropolis).
What books did you read this week? Let us know in the comments!