This Week in Comics: Enter the Arkham Knight

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.


Batman #68

Josh: My review is out there, so I’m really just curious to see what you guys think…

Jay: Amanda Conner’s Supergirl is great, and I kind of laughed at Selina being demure around the sexy Clark Kent robot strippers.  So ends anything positive I have to say.

Casper: Honestly, I was entertained by Amanda Conner’s artwork, which made reading this bearable for me. It’s funny, because I used to kind of dislike her work, but over the years (and especially after reading The Pro from Image Comics) I’ve become a fan of her work.

Dan: Mounts, Timms and Bellaire also seemed to have had fun juxtaposing the muted colours of Wayne Manor with the gaudy brilliance of the Fortress of Solitude. Mattina’s variant cover is far too cool and much too serious for this travesty of an issue though.

Josh: Yeah, I agree with each of those sentiments. That’s also about as far as my praise goes.

Brian: Surely no surprise at this point, but I flat-out hated this book. All of this Knightmare stuff issue after issue, and we get this. I don’t have data, but I’d be willing to bet that the demographic that buys Batman month-after-month—the demographic that made it a 100k+/issue title under Snyder and Capullo—I’m betting THAT demographic has exactly zero interest in watching Selina and Lois in the Fortress, asking Superman stand-ins to take it all off. Some people may want these sorts of stories, but this is Batman for corn’s sake. How long is DC going to subject us to this? Even if—and that’s a big if—King manages to tie his run up with a nice, tidy bow, I can’t imagine ever wanting to read most of it ever again. I wondered if I would regret dropping this title at my local shop after #60, but here we are eight issues later and my decision has been confirmed.

Josh: You bring up a good point though in discussing demographics and monthly sales. That’s been part of my frustration with King on Batman lately. I haven’t liked most of what he’s written, but I’ve always come into it looking forward to see what he would do at the very least… Until these last few issues. There’s been no progression. I’m going to assume we’re not the only ones who feel this way, and I’m willing to bet people lost the desire or “need” to pick this title up every other week.

Dan: Every fortnight, I bring an open mind and as much optimism as I can muster when I sit down to read the latest issue of Batman, and every week King finds a new way to let me down. What was this crap? There was no story, no superheroics, no character insight – Just random events strung together depicting what alternatively might have happened at Bruce and Selina’s bachelor/bachelorette parties. The real parties (the ones that didn’t take place entirely in Bruce’s brain) already took place last year, in the money-milking build-up to the wedding that never happened. I just kept asking myself, ‘Who is this for? Is there an audience out there that likes this nonsense?’

Josh: Typically, I would say no, but I always check other reviews to see what the consensus is after I write mine, and I was surprised to see so much praise for this issue. As each month passes, I feel like I’m living in some type of dream state because I just don’t get what people are seeing in certain titles. I know it’s a matter of taste, but I still feel like I can often at least see what people appreciate about a book even if I don’t like it… And I couldn’t find that here.

Casper: I totally agree that, in terms of plot and writing overall, this was not great at all. The main thing that bothered me was the dialogue. It all sounded so unnatural to me, so artificial, so scripted.

Dan: At least the characterization of dream Bruce and dream Clark was solid (which is more than can be said for the giddy teenagers playing the roles of Selina and Lois).

Josh: You know, I’d written roughly two paragraphs discussing characterization before thinking, “All people are going to do is lambaste me because this is a dream and not really the actual characters… So, I deleted it.

Casper: Another thing that I disliked was that this didn’t feel like a dream at all. The cuts to Lois and Selina and back to Clark and Bruce were structured like a story that would take place in waking life — not in Bruce’s dreams. I mean, I frequently have vivid and lucid dreams, and I have dreamed about other people and what they are doing, but the dream never switches between my own “scenes” and other peoples’ “scenes” as if it’s a scripted movie with a clearly structured pace. In my experience, dreams just don’t work like that.

And, finally, this story doesn’t match the overall tone of King’s run either. It feels like someone else wrote this. I know I’ve been asking for more humor and less Sad-Bat, but when I said that I didn’t mean that we should pull a 180 and do this. No, I’m sorry, guys, but this is the wrong timing and the wrong title, as far as I’m concerned. And I hate saying that, because I still like King’s work in general and I’m a huge Batman fan, of course.

Jay: I am 100% in support of a lighter approach to Batman, or at least one that isn’t so oppressively dour.  The problem with the humor here is, well, it isn’t that funny, and even when it is, it’s still part of a larger story where Batman is just so down.

Josh: It really wasn’t that funny. That’s why I commented on King staying true to he is and to not try and be Palmiotti and Conner. Had this been executed in the vain of “Superfriends,” but with weird, dreamlike transitions, then this could have been a hit. But it wasn’t. And if DC wanted what Palmiotti and Conner bring to the table, then they should’ve just hired them to write the issue.

Casper: Oh well. At least this isn’t the only Bat book on stands right now.

Jay: Excellent segue, Casper, because the next book is…


Detective Comics #1001

Casper: Guys, I really enjoyed this issue a lot!

Dan: Although it wasn’t bad, this issue wasn’t all I’d hoped for.

Josh: It wasn’t all I’d hoped for either, but I did enjoy how hard and heavy it came out of the gates. And, just to gush on Tomasi a little bit, I love his grasp of characters. Bringing Francine into this was a brilliant move, and I hope she pops back into the story at some point.

Jay: Like I said in my review, I didn’t really love it, but I certainly liked it quite a bit.  The Arkham Knight is quirkier and weirder than I thought he was going to be, and I like that there are several mysteries going on at once.

It’s a shame that it wasn’t Chief O’Hara with Gordon, though, because he’s still in the ranks of Alexander Knox, Gossip Gerty, and Summer Gleeson as characters from other mediums who need to be in main continuity.I know he’s been in a handful of issues before and, uhh, I’m pretty sure he met a gruesome end in Dark Victory, but we won’t count that.

Brian: I think I actually loved this one. Yes, it’s a fairly spartan first installment, but the melodrama of the Arkham Knight, Walker’s distinct take on Batman (variable ears notwithstanding), and the near-perfect sequential art in that big battle scene still had me flying high after multiple reads.

Dan: Walker’s Batman design and Francine becoming a Man-Bat gave me some welcome Batman: The Animated Series vibes.

Josh: Yes!

Casper: I’m really happy to see Walker’s pencils, too. I first noticed Walker’s art in a backup story somewhere in Geoff Johns’ Justice League run, and ever since I’ve been really admiring how detailed and animated Walker’s illustrations are. It’s a great fit for Detective Comics as well. There are a few great fight scenes here, and clearly this dude has a knack for sequential storytelling. Maybe the Bat-ears are slightly weird, but I don’t give a bat’s ass!

Dan: I don’t like Walker’s pouty Bruce Wayne; he looks like Sylvester Stallone.

Josh: Whenever I see you guys in person, I’m just going to say, “Give me pouty face. Give me Stallone face” and hope you respond accordingly. On a separate note, I thought Arkham Knight was interesting.

Casper: I’m not entirely on board yet, but I think that’s just because not a whole lot has been revealed about the character. Regardless, I have faith in Tomasi, so I expect this story to turn out great in the end.

Dan: Tomasi has put his own stamp on the Arkham Knight, making him very different from the video game version. The Knights of the Sun are a bit faceless. I’d read that the Knight would have an army and assumed they would be existing supervillains.

Josh: See, I was glad that it wasn’t established villains. I feel that often cheapens one villain for the sake of another. I liked that it was a horde of unknowns, especially considering their medieval theme. I thought it was comic-booky, but worked well.

Dan: I don’t like all the naff ‘burn back the dark’ stuff, the Cream quote on the last page is random and forced, and the creation of a miniature sun is absurd. However, killing all the bats in Gotham is a dramatic opening move, and it’s clear from their first confrontation that the new Knight and his allies are a force to be reckoned with.

Jay: Creating an artificial sun is the exact kind of absurd I want in everything.

Josh: Strangely enough, I didn’t hate the artificial sun. I think you’re rubbing off on me, Jay. However… I did think it was weird that they introduced the fake sun right before dawn. The sun was already about to come up. They should’ve done it at midnight or something. That would’ve really been bonkers. This almost came off as if they were like, “The sun isn’t coming up fast enough. Unleash the fake sun!”

As for killing the bats… Yeah. That was super effective.

Casper: All things considered, this is a damn cool issue.

Josh: Agreed! And it has me eager for the next chapter.


Catwoman #10

Dan: I found this issue quite confusing.

Josh: No joke.

Jay: Yeah, I don’t remember much of this issue other than being confused by it.  While I don’t necessarily dislike this series, I’m getting to the point where I might drop it.  It’s just so uneventful.

Dan: It’s hard to trace a through line in this series; each issue feels like a standalone adventure we’ve jumped into at the halfway point.

Josh: Yeah, Joelle Jones desperately needs help with plotting and story structure. It appears as though she has some interesting ideas cooked up in her head, but her execution – as far as her scripts are concerned – is really poor.

The plotting for this issue in particular was jumping all over the place. It didn’t make sense, didn’t flow, and it felt like the narration was a forced add by editorial because the script was so bad. It literally read as if editorial was like, “There’s no way readers are going to understand what’s going on because this is so poorly written, so here’s some narration to try and tell you what’s happening and help guide you through this mess.

Dan: To make matters worse, the narration isn’t handled by Selina this time, and the story is told out of order. I recognise Catwoman, Penguin and the Creels from previous issues but the rest of the cast are so bland I have no idea if I’ve met them before or not.

Josh: I recognized the characters, but I got a little confused because I thought the cop had been arrested previously. I might be remembering it incorrectly, but I’m too lazy to go back and check… Mainly because I don’t really care. Sorry.

Casper: I actually quite liked this issue. I would’ve preferred if Selina was narrating the story herself, but it doesn’t really bother me that another character is doing that instead. What does slightly bother me, though, is that Jones is hinting at a possible romance between Selina and this guy James. I can see Selina trying to distract herself from thinking about Bruce all the time, but if this turns into a legit romance then that might conflict with whatever story King is planning to tell in his remaining issues. I don’t know. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see where this is going before we judge this too hard, because for all we know it’s not actually a romance that’s being hinted at, but it turns out to be something else entirely.

Josh: I took it more as a “kindred spirits” situation like when you have “work wives” or “work husbands.” I don’t think there’s an actual romance brewing… I hope not anyway.

Brian: I usually enjoy this book at least a little whenever I read it, but I don’t always read it, and this is one of those weeks.

Josh: You didn’t miss much. 


Red Hood: Outlaw #33

Brian: What can I say that I didn’t in my review? This issue had some fun, but it feels like we’ve been treading water. The “Prince of Gotham” name for this arc is a nice line back to some of Willis Todd’s comments in the best issue of RHATO ever, but I’m not too excited about Jason running the Iceberg, and all of this one’s sizzle comes from the goofiness of the characters and Pete Woods’s excellent battle choreography.

Casper: I am still not really interested in following Jason’s misadventures. So I skipped this one, just like I tend to skip most of the Red Hood issues.

Jay: Like Catwoman, I read it but couldn’t tell you anything about it.  I think Penguin is still stuck behind an aquarium? Bunker… made some walls with his energy bricks?  Those sisters whose names I can’t remember wrecked some dudes? Am I getting warmer?

Brian: They’re The Sisters Su, Jay, and a pox on you for failing to remember.

Josh: Don’t worry, Jay. I totally forgot their names as well.

Umm… Yeah, this is here. It’s a thing. It’s happening. While I agree that the range of characters makes this entertaining, I also think it hinders the book. There are some really strong stories waiting to be told here, but it’s just not happening. So… Bring back evil Jason.  


Justice League Odyssey #8

Dan: The vague motivations of the Tamarean/Crusader army mercifully take a back seat this week to allow Darkseid some breathing room. Although eight pages of his exposition is a lot to wade through (and when that’s over, Cyborg adds to the verbiage overload by talking to himself when he arrives on Epocrypha), it’s good to finally get an explanation for his behavior, there are satisfying ties to current events in Justice League, and the Lord of Apokolips certainly sounds like himself (‘I am no villain. I am not something you can categorize in your feeble human terms. I am cosmic force. I am order amid chaos.’ That’s textbook Darkseid). Although the action doesn’t really flow, the artwork is clear and vibrant.

Jay: What will Jay drop first: this or Catwoman?  Any takers?

Josh: Catwoman. Definitely Catwoman. I don’t mean this as an insult, but Jones just can’t seem to craft a story. Meanwhile, Abnett is doing a decent job of cleaning up the mess that Williamson made. This story isn’t there yet, but Justice League Odyssey could easily become the book it should have been to begin with, and I’m willing to give it a little more time to reach that potential under this new team.

Brian: Meh.

Casper: Nope. Sorry. Nothing.

Josh: Welp, I tried.


The Batman Who Laughs #4

Dan: Scott Snyder’s craftsmanship is meticulous. The use of Robins (Batman’s and the Batman Who Laughs’) as a motif to open and close the issue is masterful. Bruce fashioning himself a visor made a decent cliffhanger in issue #3, but most cliffhangers lead to a disappointing payoff; that’s not the case here as this action is explained and actually propels the plot forwards (By the way, when the visor isn’t in place, you can see Bruce’s eyes changing from red to white whenever he has moments of strong rational thought). The digital mask that Snyder introduced in Batman #1 (2011) plays an important role in the issue as well. Lastly, the characters are pitch-perfect; I can see both sides in the heartfelt argument between Bruce and Alfred, and can hear the Batman Who Laughs’ voice when he speaks (in fact, I enjoy them so much that I find myself involuntarily reading his parts aloud).

Brian: I’m tired of this story, to be honest. The Batman Who Laughs has been overexposed, and now we even have our Bruce wearing his spikey headband. Beyond that, I find myself worn out on Jock’s aesthetic, and the occasional pops of red in dialogue were annoying.

Casper: That’s fair enough, Brian, but I actually loved this story for all the reasons that you disliked it. While I question the spikey visor a little bit, I just can’t deny that this comic is put together so well on a technical level. It’s some craftsmanship, all right. I explain why in my review, which you can check out here. It’s also really nice to see that a lot of our Batman-News regulars have been digging the series as well. Good stuff!

Josh: I’m with Brian on this one. I’m not a fan. This series started off strong for me, but it’s fallen off the tracks really quickly. I didn’t find the payoff of the spike mask rewarding. I felt like it ultimately contradicted the end of the last issue – or at least Bruce destroying the antidotes. I mean, if he wanted the mask because it helped him see the bleed, then just wear the mask. Don’t stop taking the antidote for the infection from Joker. Also, what’s actually stopping Bruce from fully converting now? The serum was the only thing preventing him from completely turning before, but now that it’s convenient for the story, Bruce is suppressing it on his own. I find the entire story inconsistent and too over the top. I like the horror elements, but Snyder is back where he was during his run of Batman, All Star Batman, and Metal. He’s overwriting. Less is more, and an editor needs to step in to reign him in some.

Jay: It’s one of those books I can’t be objective about for… reasons, but I definitely enjoy it as a super weird horror story.

What were the best books you read this week?