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.
Casper: Okay, guys, I’m really excited about this issue! I really dig Walker’s, Hennessy’s and Fairbairn’s art, as usual — it’s very dynamic and it moves the story along at a steady pace. But what I love even more is how this story opens as a Batman story, and then smoothly transitions into a Robin story. Now, I know that not everybody likes Damian, but I adore him, especially when Tomasi writes him. Honestly, reading this issue makes me wish for a Damian solo book written by Tomasi and illustrated by Walker (or Gleason!). Even if it’s just a miniseries, I’d pick that up in a heartbeat. Seriously, Robin’s appearance is both a happy surprise to me as well as kind of obvious. I guess it just underscores how Robin has been kind of neglected by the main Batman writers recently, except for Tomasi. Oh, and that cliffhanger! Does this mean we’ll find out who is the Arkham Knight next issue? I haven’t been this excited about a Bat-book in a while! I probably sound like a total geek right now but I don’t care! Whoo!
(One point of criticism I have right now, by the way, is where Robin got that flashlight from? Do I even want to know?)
Josh: Oh no…
Dan: Haha! He had all his equipment taken away so where was he hiding that? I’m really warming to Walker’s style too. The opening battle and the underwater section must be really challenging to convey (remember how difficult it is to tell what’s going on in the aquatic scenes in Thunderball?) but he rises to the challenge with large frames and judicious placement of details.
Casper: Well, don’t forget that Walker was the main artist on Aquaman for a little while ; )
Dan: The sun-shaped batarangs look silly and I don’t know why 6 random, presumably absent villains appear on one page but otherwise it’s great. I loved seeing Damian playing a big role in one of the flagship titles for once, although I hope the Arkham Knight isn’t too preoccupied with recruiting him to his cause; we’ve been through all that with Tomasi in ‘Born to Kill.’
Brian: Dan, I was confused by the villains at first, too, but if you look at the margins, they’re all in the hall of a cell block, and those villains must be in that immediate area, looking through the glass on their doors.
Dan: Oh yeah! They must be in Arkham.
Josh: That’s what I thought.
Brian: Beyond that, I really did enjoy this issue. I’m completely sold on Walker for this book, and I’m thrilled to see Tomasi making Damian a feature fairly early. That said, I do think some of his dialogue was off (referring to his dad as “Bruce” instead of “Father” when he’s in his own thoughts, for example).
Jay: Not to say Walker’s Art was bad in 1001 but there were some inconsistencies. Those are all gone here, though, and I absolutely loved that standoff at the beginning of the issue. Great pacing and amazing use of art to tell the story.
I too like how it went from a Batman book to a Robin book, though that did contribute to my feeling that this felt more like scenes that would bridge together the surrounding issues rather than its own issue. That’s the nature of a multi-part arc, of course, but I still wish there was a little more meat to make this stand under its own weight.
Brian: So who do you guys think the Arkham Knight is? I’m gathering the evidence at Comics Now, and while I feel comfortable ruling out a number of people, I’m nowhere near saying “this is who I think it is,” or if it’s even a somebody we’ve seen in Gotham before.
Josh: Same. Damian’s expression can be somewhat telling. Also, I feel like they’re trying to hint at something with his hair, but I think that’s ultimately a red herring. Or, perhaps they’re just going to prove, yet again, that they have no idea what to do with Dick. (Kidding… Kind of. Seriously though, I don’t think it’s Dick.)
Dan: I don’t care about anything going on in Barbara’s civilian life right now, but boy did I enjoy getting re-acquainted with the Terrible Trio. They feel like distinct, individual personalities and I love Pelletier’s creepy depiction of them.
Jay: One surefire way to get me to check out of a story is to include the Terrible Trio, and yet… I really enjoyed this issue.
Dan: Yeah, when I read the solicitation I was like, ‘those guys? I’d almost forgotten their existence’ but I do like to see characters plucked from relative obscurity and they do have a lot of potential. I’d love to read a horror version of the trio, maybe with Jock on pencils.
Josh: I didn’t mind seeing the Terrible Trio. I agree that they’re one of those obscure villains that could benefit from not being utilized well throughout time. That gives them the opportunity to be reinvented in incredible ways… But I couldn’t help but feel that this whole approach was shoehorned a bit. First off, Scott was building a mystery as to who the bad guys were, so to blatantly come out and have the Trio be like, “We’re the big bad.” feels forced and convenient… Not to mention a bit anti-climactic.
I get the sense that this is a change in plans. We know Scott is leaving the book soon, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the Trio wasn’t actually the initial big bad. I kind of get the sense that decisions were made to wrap up Scott’s run, and that’s what gave us this. It isn’t bad, but it isn’t great either.
Brian: This is a book where time commitments + general quality prevent me from picking it up. Almost every time I’ve read Batgirl since 2016, it’s been decent enough entertainment, but even at the beginning of Hope Larson’s Rebirth run, it didn’t impress me enough to stay current with it. I would love to see DC put a heavyweight on this. Maybe an all-in-one like Francis Manapul or Joëlle Jones.
Dan: Yeah I could get behind that! Tony S Daniel would be high on my list for an all-in-one. Batgirl definitely isn’t a must-read but it’s solid and reliable, which is more than can be said for Batman, Nightwing, Harley Quinn or Heroes in Crisis right now.
Josh: Yeah, I’d actually love to see Manapul take this title. I feel like he could do some incredible work… Visually and narratively. Are you listening, DC?
Casper: First of all, I really like the A cover by Gerads. The composition and the colors are just really pretty. I also enjoy the artwork in this issue quite a bit.
Josh: I think we’ll all agree in enjoying the artwork…
Casper: But this issue was over before I full well realized it. I guess, with Wally being the narrator, that’s actually quite fitting. Yet, at the same time, I would’ve liked to see some of the other characters as well. I don’t strictly mind that we get this issue right before the end, as I think Wally’s confession clears up a lot of ambiguity, but I would’ve preferred if there was a little more room for a reaction to Wally’s confession from one or more of the other cast members. Or at least some kind of reflection. I mean, we’ll probably get something like that in the next issue, but I think that it would’ve made the reading experience of this issue more complete for me. Finally, this is a typical Tom King piece in the sense that I was kind of wondering where all of this was going until I reached the final panel, and it made me reconsider the story, for better or worse. I’ve seen King do this many times before, and I think it’s effective as a storytelling device here, but at the same time, given that it’s an entire issue devoted to this confession and its timing in the story, it also feels like an afterthought. So I’m left with mixed feelings. I do like that Wally isn’t actually dead, though!
Dan: Yeah, I’m glad that Wally is alive too, even though I’m not a fan of King’s version of Wally. I agree that Gerads and Moore delivered detailed, emotional artwork here, but that’s all I liked about this issue. Even though I should know better by now, I expected that, as it’s the penultimate issue, we’d finally get a lot of story in this week’s installment. Instead, King fills pages with rambling, indulgent introspection before unveiling his disappointing explanation for the murders.
Casper: Yeah, you’re right, Dan. Something I also want to add is that nobody actually solved this murder. Batman didn’t. Flash didn’t. Booster, Beetle, Babs and Harley didn’t. The answer is just handed to us. When I consider this fact, the issue kind of starts to fall apart. (Unless this is not the real answer because we have one more issue to go? But by then, what’s the point anymore?)
Josh: Yeah… I touched on some of these thoughts in my review, but I want to tap Jay and Brian before I revisit any of that.
This was handled and explained a little better than I thought it was going to be at first. I was afraid Wally went crazy and murder a bunch of people. That’s pretty unforgivable, along with being cheap and easy. Having him effectively have a mental breakdown that manifests itself as the Speed Force at least makes some sort of sense, and keeps him a relatively innocent party.
Jay: It’s everything else he does that’s just… wrong.
Josh: Oh, thank God. Yes.
Jay: Piecing together the confessionals and releasing them is somewhat debatable (that’s what we were told he did, right?), but staging two fake murders to dupe Harley and Booster? That’s just… that’s low, even in a moment of desperation.
Gerads continues to earn that Eisner, though. Dude can draw.
Brian: I read it, I didn’t like it, and I’m going to leave it at that.
Josh: Yeah, I mean… Look, I said this in my review, but at this point, Heroes in Crisis has essentially lost its purpose. Everything that it was presented to be, isn’t what it actually is. I feel like King thinks that what he’s doing is more important or grand than it actually is, and while he’s tried to bring an awareness to mental health and PTSD, he essentially just made people who suffer from this look dangerous. It’s a failure. Wally accidentally killing people doesn’t damage the character, but King having Wally do what he did in the aftermath… that does. And there are now rumors that there’s a Suicide Squad book being developed that contains Wally. I’m completely opposed to that. I’m going to cross my fingers that there’s one more twist before this book ends, because if there isn’t, then Heroes in Crisis is nothing more than garbage with pretty art.
Batman Beyond #31
Dan: I’ve never encountered Split before so I’m going out on a limb and saying Jurgens has broken with tradition and introduced a new villain. I was also impressed with his restraint- The book never overtly spells out that Bruce has switched places with an Arkham inmate; instead the reader works it out from the fake’s behaviour.
Josh: See, I thought it came across as incredibly heavy handed. No, Jurgens didn’t go out of his way to say, “They switched places!” but fake-Bruce’s dialogue was so obviously not Bruce, that it annoyed me. Every line was blatantly revealing it wasn’t Bruce to the point that I didn’t believe Terry and Matt wouldn’t realize it. Jurgens could’ve been more subtle with the execution and the impact would have been greater.
I know this is going to sound harsh, but this issue read as if it were written by an amateur, not someone with Jurgen’s resume.
Dan: Leonardi’s artwork is less pleasing. Although it’s always clear what’s going on, the pencils are ugly to look at, especially the bloated, vacant faces.
Josh: Completely agree! I wasn’t a fan… This art, to me, didn’t feel as if it were up to the standards of something the “big two” would publish. I know art is subjective, but to use the word again, this looked very amateur.
There were elements of Leonari’s art that reminded me of Kelley Jones – specifically the “blobby” nature of the characters – but Jones tends to have such a strong, expressionist vibe to his work that allows me to look past those details. This, however, doesn’t contain that vibe for me, and it just makes the art bad. Even the storytelling isn’t great.
Jay: Read it and enjoyed it, but have mostly forgotten it by now.
Brian: I’ve only seen limited bits of the actual show, so there’s no sense of nostalgia driving me this book. I’m also not crazy about the Beyond costume, and to be honest, the idea that this is a future Gotham during Bruce’s lifetime doesn’t make me want to read it anymore.
Justice League Dark #10
Dan: This series continues to be a fun ride, provided the reader can keep all the complex established rules and back stories in mind while reading it. I rolled my eyes when I saw that the issue opened with another recap but then I remembered that many readers will need this and it does shed better light on Nabu’s motivation. The visuals remain delightfully unique, with reality cracking like broken glass, and frames divided by Circe’s fingers gliding through water.
Jay: Copy and paste what I said about Batman Beyond.
Josh: Haha! Jay… I liked this issue. I wasn’t sure about it at first because, as Dan said, there’s a lot of context and past stories that needs to be taken into consideration. I found myself struggling to remember some of the details from early in the run, but I think this will read incredibly well in trade format.
Like you, I also appreciated being enlightened to Nabu’s motivation. I’ve been questioning why he’s been siding with something so evil through this run, and this issue provided answers. The journey to get here was a bit round-about, but I believed, and even respected, Nabu when all was revealed. The book is at an interesting cross roads, and as terrible as Nabu may seem, he’s the one character that is literally sacrificing everything for the multiverse.
I did feel that the art was a little off in this issue. Was I the only one? There were panels where the characters looked weird compared to previous issues.
The Silencer #16
Josh: I feel like this is going to be a bittersweet conversation. I’ve been bummed ever since I found out this book would be coming to a close. I’m not surprised by the news, but it sucks because this is such a quality book.
Jay: I hate that this series is ending soon because it’s been so consistently good. Better to go out on top rather than limp to the finish, though.
Josh: Agreed. I think it’s interesting that this was the one New Age of Heroes book that none of us really had any expectation for, then we got it, and it was by far the best title in the line.
Anyway, I thought this was a fun, action packed issues. I’ve always enjoyed the dynamic of Honor and her family, and Abnett has found interesting ways to keep that element fresh and interesting. I’ve been waiting for Honor’s two worlds to meet, and it looks as if that will finally happen.
Brian: How about that final splash page? Can’t wait to see the next scene.
Josh: So good! It was one of those pages that made me groan when I realized it was the last page because I wanted more.
Brian: And ditto, Jay—wish this could keep going. This book started with a blend of bold action and the sweetness of family, and while the balance has shifted back and forth over time, those core elements have remained, and they’re what make this book great.
And to me, it’s amazing how long they’ve kept the same basic conflict—Honor Guest trying to get out of her old life and keep her new life intact. When we talked about Silencer on the Comics Now podcast, I said that I wonder how long they could keep it up without killing Honor’s husband, son, or both, and yet here we are, almost a year and a half in, and the book is still compelling.
Josh: Yes! That was one of the things I remember mentioning early on when we were providing full coverage of the series. I was afraid they were going to kill her husband as well, or reveal that he was in on the entire thing. I didn’t want either to come to fruition as I felt those options were too stereotypical, but DC and Abnett have remained true to their core concept.
I also like that they kept the themes and plots surrounding Honor’s core family, while also bringing in new aspects of what a family really is. Revealing that Honor was genetically “bred” to be an assassin for Ra’s al Ghul was an interesting development. This falls in line with previous stories involving Ra’s and the League of Assassins, so it felt like a natural progression. Then the reveal that Raze is her brother made things even more interesting. Layer in Smoke, and you’ve got some great dynamics between the characters. I am sad they killed Raze though… I’d have loved seeing him in the future – especially with this Leviathan event coming up.
Now Smoke… She’s crazy, and I just want Silencer to mop the floor with her.
What books did you read this week? Got any hot takes? Let us know in the comments below! And, of course, don’t post Endgame spoilers. Instead, if you feel the urge, just post a fun fact instead! Make the world a better place. See, it’s easy: there is a colonel-in-chief in the Norway King’s Guard that is actually a penguin. His name is Nils Olav.