This Week in Comics: Joker delivered a baby

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 #1004

Josh: I think we can all agree that people will be divided on this issue.

Jay: I get why people may not like it, but I’m kind of loving Astrid’s backstory.  There are holes in it, especially with how the villains in Arkham were involved, but I think that’s the point.  Jeremiah clearly has an idealized view of his wife, and in turn Astrid has an idealized view of her upbringing.

Dan: Ooh I hadn’t thought of it that way. I read it like a factual document and kept wondering why Joker was delivering babies and reading bedtime stories.

Brian: Jeremiah’s reliability as a narrator is definitely a big question here, and not just in terms of the events people have a problem with. He might have been the reason his love was in danger, he could have been a bad husband, or any other number of things.

Josh: Oh… I like that. I’m with you in feeling that Jeremiah is an unreliable narrator, but mainly because of past continuity. I didn’t even consider factoring in the reality the he may have been the reason his love was in danger. Good call.

Brian: Beyond that—and maybe I just see Tomasi’s work through rose-colored glasses because I’ve enjoyed most of what he’s done—I interpreted the Arkham birth scene as an unexplainable anomaly, something almost mystical. Why would Joker do that, why would Grundy do that—I think that’s the point. A lot of folks are criticizing Tomasi as though he hamfistedly forced the inmates to serve his narrative, but I think that’s unfair. He’s proven himself as one of the best Bat-writers of the past decade (certainly my favorite), and that’s just not his style.

Josh: Completely agree.

Dan: Although it’s a sometimes funny, sometimes tragic tale, delivered in a striking, atypical style, I didn’t like this issue much. ‘Wish I could say the same for Astrid’s and my world’ wins the clunkiest line of the week award. Because of the storybook presentation and because she’s essentially misguided, I felt like the origin story kind of demystified Astrid; I don’t find her as threatening anymore. I don’t know how Batman didn’t hear about the Death-by-Batarang, how he has never seen Astrid before (even though she hid from him, I’m surprised their paths have never crossed) or why Arkham Asylum keeps hold of video footage from decades ago. This issue felt like an interruption to the story’s momentum; on the whole, I’m still savouring Tomasi’s tenure so I’m looking forward to issue #1005, which should be flashback-free.

Josh: I get what you’re saying. For me, in some ways, Astrid felt like less of a threat the moment she was revealed. Not because of necessarily who she is, but mainly because of who she isn’t. While she’s been trained, she hasn’t really been trained by anyone with a skill set that matches Batman. And, again, that’s not to say that she isn’t a threat, just that I can’t imagine her being as much of a physical threat as she was introduced to be. Now, psychologically… That’s a different story completely.

Casper: I actually really enjoyed this issue. Walker’s art is as great as ever, and the villains protecting Ingrid and Astrid adds some interesting, though ambiguous, complexities to those characters. Like you said, Brian, it’s an unexplainable anomaly, and I really like that. However, I thought that the batarang stuff was somewhat forced and perhaps a bit too convenient for the plot. Obviously something had to happen to spark Astrid’s hate for Batman, and this stuff just seemed too easy to me. But other than that, I had a good time with this — I even liked the fourth-wall breaking moment with Damian because it just looks so funny.

Josh: Yeah, I love Damian and Tomasi is easily one of the best at writing him. I really think Brian may have been onto something earlier, and I hope that’s the case. I do think the one thing none of us have touched on, is that Astrid did, in fact, grow up around and with these inmates. Whether things played out the way Arkham described them or not, Astrid has been influenced by some of the worst people in Gotham. In no way is that good. Her psyche has to be so distorted. She’s clearly going into her mission with a sense of belief that she’s doing the right thing, and that alone can be incredibly dangerous on it’s own. I’m looking forward to the next issue!


Batgirl #35

Casper: I haven’t been reading Batgirl in a long time, but I opened up this issue to see what’s what, and this turned out to be a fun read! I like how Batgirl escapes the death trap and I like how the Terrible Trio loses control of the situation rapidly and in the end cowers in fear before Batgirl. The boardroom scenes were okay, but since I haven’t been following the series for a while I think some of the impact is lost on me. I may have to dig up some back issues and check out Scott’s run in full. I’ve heard a lot of good stuff about it — from you guys and from others!

Josh: Yeah, I’ve kind of been viewing Scott’s run as an overall success. I won’t say it’s been great, nor would I say there are any memorable moments that will make her run stand out, but I definitely feel like she’s understood the character better than any other Batgirl writer since Gail Simone… It also seems like there was a lot of mandates that derailed whatever she originally planned. I have no proof of this, but considering how she spoke to what she had planned for the book at SDCC last year, to what’s actually unfolded… They seem like two different directions.

Anyway, as for this issue, I thought she did a solid job. I like her Barbara. She writes a strong, smart character that is equally badass. I feel like it’s a good balance – more importantly, the right balance – for Batgirl.

Jay: Scott has managed to juggle Babs’ personal life and her crimefighting career really well, I must say.  Kudos to her for making the boardroom scenes just as gripping as Batgirl’s tussle with the Terrible Trio.

Josh: Oh, yeah! I liked the boardroom scene as well!

Dan: I’m glad the boardroom scenes are doing something for you; I would rather skip them altogether. When Barbara’s life is at stake elsewhere, I can’t bring myself to worry about her financial situation. I’m enjoying the Terrible Trio, though, and Batgirl kicks ass in this issue.

Jay: Yeah, like I’ve said before, I’m pretty quick to check out with the Terrible Trio, so I’m pleasantly surprised at how much I’m enjoying this arc.

Josh: Agreed. I wasn’t as favorable with the last issue, but this chapter really made me a fan.

I’m still sad she’s leaving the title…


Batman Beyond #32

Jay: If nothing else, seeing “Bruce” be a jerk and stop just short of calling Matt “dude” is pretty hilarious.

Dan: Haha, yeah, that is one of the few entertaining aspects of this book. Thanks to his incredibly conspicuous behaviour, Matt and Mel finally become suspicious, while Terry again tangles with Splitt (why two t’s? It looks silly). That’s all that happens in this issue. The best scene is the opening one, in which Leonardi does his best work on a struggling Batman and Sotomayor provides some realistic glare; after that, the story slows down, Terry’s face looks inexplicably older than usual, and he does some very odd poses. False Face is revealed; a legacy villain from a 1958 Batman issue originally, then later from the Batman Beyond TV show. Its apt that Jurgens keeps using all the old villains; I think it’s nostalgia alone that keeps this series in print.

Jay: Exactly.  This book isn’t ever really bad, it’s just… inconsequential.  The name is what keeps it going. I’m glad Jurgens is getting work, and he’s doing a serviceable job with this title, I just wish he had something with a little more meat on its bones.  He’s in the big leagues. At least let him play around with Boo$ter Gold.

Casper: I flipped through it, but this issue couldn’t hold my attention. I will say that I find it equally amusing and confusing that Bruce is like: “Sorry kid, I’m calling it a night, I’m gonna grab some Zs” — or something along those lines.

Josh: I’ve lost interest in Batman Beyond for now. I might circle back and catch up at some point, but for now, there are too many other books on my plate, and I just don’t have much of a desire to read this title (at least for now).


Justice League Dark #11

Jay: This is one of those books that has a ton of really interesting ideas, a lot of which keep me invested, but it just needs another draft to get the script tight.

So, a typical Tynion book.

Josh: Ha! I was about to add “So, a typical Tynion book,” but then you beat me to it… Great minds, Jay… Great minds…

Dan: Haha! When Mordru gets talking, Tynion does fall back into his penchant for walls of words, doesn’t he?

Jay: The best thing about Mordru was how much of a scumbag he was.  I was just waiting for Diana and/or Zatanna to just deck him.

Casper: +1.

Dan: I could tell at two points in the story, he was actually reigning himself in, clearly tempted to tell us about Doctor Mist and the Homo Magi. Yes, DC has a rich seam of magical characters but they don’t all need explaining in the first few arcs.

Overall, I feel that Tynion has been more disciplined in Justice League Dark and The Immortal Men than in Detective Comics or Justice League.

Jay: I couldn’t get past the first five pages of The Immortal Men, but I agree with the sentiment.

Josh: I never read The Immortal Men, but I definitely agree with you concerning Justice League Dark.

Honestly, I loved this issue. I thought it did a number of things right, and there are actual stakes that Tynion is playing with. I genuinely feel concerned for all of the characters involved, and believe that the outcome for the magical community will be different than the status quo. That’s a good place to be. This entire issue is great… Well, except for the last page. I wasn’t crazy about that.

Dan: I’m equally intrigued by both storylines in the current arc, and I love his pitch-perfect Wonder Woman, especially when she reprimands Mordru (and at a foot taller than Zatanna, she’s every bit a true Amazon).

Josh: Yeah, you’re right, Dan. He does write a terrific Wonder Woman. That might need to be his next venture whenever he’s done with JLD.

Dan: As ever, I really dig Martínez Bueno’s spooky style. This week, he introduces us to intricately patterned purple snakes, the detailed public area of the Hall of Justice, reality being casually torn asunder for a dramatic exit, and innocent people turning into Aero chocolate.

Josh: I feel like most Americans will have no clue what Aero chocolate is. Haha!

Dan: Oops! The only other chocolate with holes I could think of was Cadbury Wispa, which is even more niche!

Casper: Absolutely, Martínez is really good. Though I am not a big fan of Swamp Thing’s design, I like how Martínez renders all the other characters. Especially Bobo looks cool with his cape and sword. His backgrounds are also nicely detailed and designed. But, that said, I keep having a hard time getting myself to properly read this book. There’s magic, horror, fantasy and mystery — all the things that I love in a good story. But for some reason I’m just not feeling it. I’m not entirely sure why.


The Silencer #17

Jay: Could… could Honor Guest be getting a happy ending?

Dan: It’s beginning to look that way. It makes sense if DC has no other plans for her.

Casper: I hope so. I’ve always liked Honor and her family — they deserve a happy ending.

Josh: Watch DC actually give us a happy ending this one time!

Jay: Actually, Bendis has confirmed that she’ll play a role in Event Leviathan, which is awesome.

Josh: Welp, never mind. Haha!

Dan: That’s great news!

Brian: That made me so happy!

Josh: Honestly though, as much as I like happy endings, I’m happy to see that DC is moving forward with the character in some capacity. She’s honestly a great character, and she needs to be utilized.

Dan: I’m quite fond of the occasional story cover; the one for The Silencer #17 fits the classic tradition of building up the villain by showing them triumphant. I like how Kirkham and Prianto present us with a dingy room with two meager light sources; it looks dramatic and creepy. The smoke effect is cool too.

This issue is one big fight scene, and it’s a satisfying one. It flows well from panel to panel, the combatants take turns at getting the upper hand, and the issue ends with two dramatic outcomes. Series with longer histories can’t provide moments like this without inevitably reversing them or rebooting. The strength of new characters is that their story isn’t cemented in the readership and in pop culture, so anything can happen.

Brian: I loved the one big fight scene, as well. I’ve always liked the conceptual and visual simplicity of Honor’s power—shh to establish the zone of silence, and a snap to dissolve it. When you add the wrinkle of how it disrupts Smoke’s abilities, that simplicity pays dividends, because there’s never a moment when I’m wondering why Honor’s able to make contact.

Josh: Yeah, I agree with both of you. In general, The Silencer has been a quality, high-action, high-energy book that’s also equally grounded. I’ve loved nearly every page of this series, and I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone. It also appears as though the title will receive a strong wrap-up, and that definitely doesn’t hurt. Good issue!


Farewell to Dan

Dan: This installment of This Week in Comics is my last for Batman News as a regular contributor, so I’d just like to say thank you and goodbye. Writing articles for the site is a pleasure, but discussing issues with this exemplary community has been even better (especially drawing comedy from the pretentious works of certain comic writers). Thank you to Andrew, Josh, Jay, Brian, Casper, Elena, Brandon, and the readers for all your support. I’ll be back whenever I can, and in the meantime I’ll see you in the comments!

Andrew: It was a pleasure, Dan.

Jay: You’ve been great, Dan.  We’ll miss you. Keep up with the great drawings you post on the tweets.

Brian: We shall miss you, good sir. Keep reading comics,  and pop into chat with us when you can!

Casper: It’s been great working with you, Dan! I’m glad you’ll be hanging out in the comments sections, and I hope to continue to enjoy your insightful commentary in some way or another. See you around, my dude!

Josh: Wait, Dan’s leaving!?!? Ah, $%@#! Haha! You’ll be missed! Everyone make sure you give Dan a follow on Twitter if you haven’t already. And Dan, please come back from time to time!

What did you read this week? Let us know in the comments below. And for the love of Leslie Thompkins, please, please, join me in my campaign to steer director Matt Reeves to true north: giving us a mustachioed Alfred in the upcoming Batman movie. I’m tweeting at the man daily, and I suggest you all do the same. 

Oh, and with Elena and Dan moving on from Batman News to focus on personal matters, I will be announcing reviewer tryouts soon. Keep your eye out for that announcement in Upcoming Comics in June.