This Week in Comics: Batcow, Joker’s severed head, and more!

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 Annual #2

After years on the shelf, Batman returns to the Black Casebook! Throughout his career, Batman has compiled his most disturbing cases into one volume, its every page filled with bizarre horror and crimes he never quite managed to solve. Now a case from the past has re-opened itself in the here and now…and Batman will find himself face-to-face again with one of the deadliest villains he fought in his early years: the Reaper!

Josh: Alright, so we have Tomasi’s first Annual on Detective Comics! I think we all expect quality work from Tomasi, but I found this to be a really solid issue. We got a reintroduction to Batman: Year Two and the Reaper… but honestly, the real gem here was the dialogue between Bruce and Alfred!

Jay: Give me Bruce and Alfred banter like this forever please.  Delightful.

Brian: I read this last Friday and loved it, but I need to revisit it before I can say much more. I do remember liking the banter, though, and the detecting.

Josh: Oh, this is totally worth a re-read. I mean, if the writers of The Batman need references for Alfred and Bruce’s relationship, just give them this issue and the Tom Taylor “Father’s Day” issue. Done.

Casper: I like the issue overall. As you guys already said, the banter was great. I’m glad that Tomasi isn’t writing Bruce like a brooding jerk. I’m kind of tired of seeing that version of Bruce Wayne.

Jay: Yes.  Thank you.  There’s really no reason for Bruce to alienate his allies and those closest to him.

Casper: Exactly!

Josh: Agreed. I know a lot of people harp on the quality of comics in the 90’s, but the one thing that the 90’s and early 2000’s did really well make the Bat-Family feel like a cohesive unit. I miss those days, but Tomasi appears to be doing what he can to bring that back.

Casper: I also like the detective work that plays a part in this issue, as well as the art. Good stuff. However, I’m not all that interested in this new Reaper dude, Julian Caspian, yet. I’m sure Tomasi will flesh out the character later, but his introduction so far is kind of underwhelming and, frankly, boring. But still an entertaining read mostly!

Jay: Seriously, the Reaper stuff was… fine, but kind of an afterthought.  They could mine some decent stories out of this idea, it just wasn’t the main draw for this issue.

Josh: I got the feeling that the idea was to mine stories from this. It didn’t seem as though his presence was there to really knock this story out of the park. In general though, Tomasi’s stories seem to heavily rely on Batman’s history… And I’m ok with that. I feel like so many writers are approaching him with the mindset of “Look how cool and different we can make Batman!” When in reality, Batman is (typically) the highest selling comic because he’s already cool and different… Tomasi gets what already makes the character special.

I also liked the tease of the case books. I know Snyder did this recently as well, but I’m really curious to know if/ when “Lost Year” or the “Red Casebook” will come into play. There’s a Nightwing: The Lost Year, but I can’t recall an already published story for Batman with that title…

Jay: Hmm, it could be a cheeky critique of the Nightwing book right now, or it could be a fun nod toward the animated series tie-in The Batman Adventures: The Lost Years.  Big stretch there with the latter, but that was a Nightwing story with a similar title.

Josh: Also, this issue – as well as Grant Morrison’s Batman run – establishes that the “Black Casebook” contains “unusual and unexplainable adventures” including many of Batman’s failures in his first year. So, what do we think the Red Casebook contains? If you’re reading this, share your thoughts in the comments section! It’ll be fun to theorize.

Anyway, I thought this was a wonderfully fun issue. There’s a lot of promise and potential for the future of Tomasi’s run!

Brian: Finally reread, and you know what I like the best here? Bruce is not beaten and weighed down. His demeanor is much more akin to the Animated Series Bruce than anything else in recent years. He has genuine fun talking with Alfred, and I absolutely love that. This is what I want—a Batman who isn’t just a hero, but also a model of how to love the people closest to him in spite of much tragedy.


Doomsday Clock #10

This stunning issue of the critically acclaimed hit maxiseries reveals the secrets behind Dr. Manhattan and his connection to the DC Universe.

Jay: Yeah, even with delays, I still dig this book.  This issue took a while to get where it was going, but when it did I loved it.  Like I said in my review, there were a few gaffes and flaws that kept it from outright greatness, so I had to knock it down a point or two.  As a recognition and celebration of Superman’s importance and influence, though, it’s fantastic.

Josh: The celebration of Superman’s importance and influence made this one of the best things I’ve read in a long time. It’s this same idea and concept that allows me to enjoy and appreciate Captain America: The First Avenger so much.

As for the Carver Colman stuff… It was slow at first, but definitely pays off by the end of the issue. Also, there were some serious nods to Tab Hunter, which as a gay man, I appreciated. (For those of you that don’t know, Tab Hunter was a huge star back in the 50’s, and was one of Warner Bro’s leading men… but he was gay. There’s a great story there and his life captures an interesting time in history.)

Brian: I’ve only skimmed at this point, and I’m terribly behind on the title in general, but the latter portion of the book where Manhattan explains that everything revolves around Superman, and that this universe is unique in the multiverse—that was incredibly intriguing stuff. I’m still waiting for the consolidated trade, but I’m definitely interested in reading when it’s all done.

Casper: Still trade-waiting. I lost track of the single issues a long time ago.

Jay: Which I get, don’t get me wrong.  Just for those who have stuck with it, I think each issue is an incredibly rewarding read.  Even when it moves at a slower pace it’s still more interesting than most mainstream books out there.

Brian: Am I the only one who found this a satisfying explanation for the New 52? I mean, I’d heard way back around DC Universe Rebirth that Manhattan was responsible for it, but seeing it laid out here, it makes it feel like part of the larger DC story, in universe, and I like that.

Josh: No, I was right there with you, Brian! I’ve honestly loved Doomsday Clock, and once we started shifting away from Rebirth, I wondered how Johns would keep the story relevant. Well, this issue answers that question. So much is explained here, but it still leaves so much unanswered and open. From the creation, to retcons in the 50’s, to Crisis on Infinite Earths, to the New 52, then Rebirth – especially Wally’s involvement with Dr. Manhattan concerning the New 52… So good… So, so good.

And as great as Johns’ writing is, you have to give it to Gary Frank as well. What an incredible and amazing artist! Everything has purpose. Literally ever panel in his work has purpose. I know I’ve said this before, but make sure you read this book! Whether you collect the issues, wait for the trades, or hold out for the full collection, you need to read this book.


Heroes in Crisis #9

The most-talked-about miniseries of the year reaches its stunning finale! The mystery behind the murders at Sanctuary is solved, but the mind behind it is one the heroes never expected. With their deepest secrets exposed, the Trinity has to consider how to carry on. Should the tragedy cause them to redouble their efforts to help their hurting comrades, or will they need to close up shop? The answers will be found in the ashes of this final showdown, and the fates of Booster Gold, Harley Quinn and the rest hang in the balance.

Jay: Positives?  It touched on trauma in ways that I’d been waiting for since the beginning, and Wally isn’t dead.  Oh, and Clay Mann can draw. The end.

Josh: I mean… Wally isn’t dead, but I’d say that fate he’s been left with is possibly worse…

Brian: I’m glad this is over. To Tom King’s credit, I always tune in to see what he’s doing, but I just didn’t enjoy this book at all.

Josh: Agreed.

Casper: I didn’t really enjoy this either. I mean, of course Mann’s art is amazing, but that’s just about it for me. The pages where we saw all the heroes talking in front of the cameras seemed very uninspired to me, and kept taking me out of the story. Had those not been in the issue, I think at least the story would’ve flowed better. Furthermore, I thought the dialogue was mostly rather clunky, and the final solution to the problem was a cool idea, but the way it’s executed really felt like an afterthought. The creative team rushed through it, so the ending was just too easy and anticlimactic. This was a weird issue. A weird series, actually.

Josh: Yeah, you can check out my full opinion in my review, but this was ultimately a huge miss on King’s part. Not just the issue, but the book itself. In attempt to make mental health more of a daily conversation, I think he ultimately just drove the stigma that surrounds it. The ending wasn’t handled well either, and yet again, King pulled a, “Well, I can’t really think of a way to actually resolve this, so I’m just going to have a character recap how we’re doing it, say it’s weird, and let that speak for itself!” I know you guys hate me for saying this… but it’s lazy.

Also, Casper, you’re right about the confessionals. They were very uninspired. There were a handful that I thought were good, but out of the pages we received of them, I think I could’ve edited it down to a single page and it would have been more effective.

… And I still think reopening Sanctuary is an awful idea…. I’m glad this book is over.  

Jay: Andrew brought up a good point: these are heroes.  They would make themselves available to talk to each other when they’re troubled.  Faceless robots and video testimonials shouldn’t be necessary.


Dog Days of Summer #1

“Who let the dogs out?” DC does this summer as we unleash the beast within and join Krypto and Superman, Bat-Cow and Batman, Wonder Woman and Ferdinand and many more for eight sun-kissed stories in this can’t-miss animal-sized spectacular!

Jay: The only stories that really stood out were Animal Man and Captain Carrot.  Everything else was forgettable. Nothing that was awful, just forgettable

Also, based on Bat-Cow, I think DiDio just watched The Dark Knight for the first time.

Brian: Did not read. But did see Bat-Cow. And Bat-Cow rules.

Casper: I didn’t read this either. But Kyle Hotz’s art is really cool.

Josh: I read it and agree with Jay’s assessment. Jay probably enjoyed the Captain Carrot story a little more than I did… but it was fun. The Animal Man story was easily my favorite. And speaking of that story, I’m not familiar with Christian Duce’s art… But the guy is incredible! DC needs to get him regular gig on a book, pronto! I’m definitely going to seek out some of his previous work.

As for Bat Cow, I have two thoughts. 1. If you don’t pair Damian with Bat Cow, is there even a point? And 2. Seriously, has anyone ever read anything from Didio that is actually good? Not ok, but really good… Because I can’t recall ever reading anything from him that I loved.


Superman: Leviathan Rising Special #1

An all-star roster of writers and artists highlight the new threat of Leviathan, but also tees up new ongoing series for Jimmy Olsen by writer Matt Fraction and artist Steve Lieber, and Lois Lane by writer Greg Rucka and artist Mike Perkins, coming in June! As Leviathan enacts a plan to take down Superman, it’s up to Lois, Jimmy and the heroes of the DC Universe to rescue the Man of Steel.

Josh: This was… interesting.

Jay: The framing story was probably the most important to the upcoming event, but I thought it was the weakest part of this issue.  Still, for what ultimately amounts to a backdoor pilot for like four different books this was pretty good. And Jimmy Olsen > everything.

Brian: Oh, I disagree (except about Jimmy). I really love the frame story—both the capering and the deepening intrigue of what Bendis has been doing in Action.

Josh: See, I didn’t dislike the framing of the story, but it was a little odd for me. I feel that what’s taken place in Action Comics up to this point is way more effective in setting up and making people excited for Leviathan Event, but this issue still served its purpose.

Brian: But back to Jimmy—

Josh: Ha!

Brian: Jimmy and Dex-Starr? It’s one of those things that is so obvious that you can’t see it. A blood-vomiting, rage-infested space cat is precisely the sort of thing that would happen to Jimmy.

Josh: Yeah, I started reading the Jimmy story and thought, “What in the hell am I reading?… This is AMAZING!” I’m definitely looking forward to Matt Fraction’s series after this. And I never read the Jimmy/ Bizarro book that was published a few years ago, but it it’s anything like this, then I need to circle back.

Also… Greg Rucka writing a Lois Lane book? Give it to me now!

And final note: I’m super happy to see Kate Spencer’s Manhunter! If  you’ve never read Marc Andreyko’s Manhunter, you need to. It’s excellent. Dark and edgy, but excellent!


Batman: Last Knight on Earth #1

Bruce Wayne wakes up in Arkham Asylum. Young. Sane. And…he was never Batman. So begins this sprawling tale of the Dark Knight as he embarks on a quest through a devastated DC landscape featuring a massive cast of familiar faces from the DC Universe. As he tries to piece together the mystery of his past, he must unravel the cause of this terrible future and track down the unspeakable force that destroyed the world as he knew it…

Jay: Crazybonkers.  Loved it.

Josh: Ditto.

Brian: I think this might be peak Capullo.

Josh: Right? I don’t have the best eye for art unless a make a point to look for it, but this is his best work since he debuted with Snyder on Batman for the New 52.

Brian: I’ve gone back and forth over the years on which inker I prefer for his Batman: Glapion or Miki, but I think Glapion wins. He tends to favor a rougher, more ragged finish, and I think it works beautifully for Capullo’s stuff. Miki was great for the slicker, younger presentation in Zero Year, but Glapion is a better fit most of the time, and he definitely is here.

I’m less concerned about the specifics of the plot here—interesting as they are—because I had such a good time with it. Snyder makes use of Black Label’s profanity allowances, but he doesn’t overdo it, and while I don’t think that stuff would ever be essential to a Batman story, it does help emphasize the moments in the story where it’s used.

Casper: I’ve reread the issue a couple times now. I love almost everything about it, as can be read in my review. This is such an adventure, man. The entire creative team is at the top of their game. This is comics gold!

Brian: Now that you’ve read it a few times, what would you say stands stronger, and what’s weaker?

Casper: Good question, Brian. I think what’s really strong is that it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s not. Almost everything can be questioned. Is Bruce stuck in a weird psychedelic dream scenario? Perhaps even in Sandman’s world? Or is there something else going on? We also can’t really trust anyone. The only person I’m trusting is Bruce himself, except here it’s hard to tell if this is even the original Bruce Wayne, because they did mention the machine that creates a Batman for every generation (the machine from Snyder and Murphy’s short story). The issue leaves you with more questions than answers, but in a compelling and intriguing way, so it does a great job of hooking readers (or at least, I’m hooked!).

As for what’s weaker … you should know I gave this book a 9.5/10, so there really isn’t anything terrible in this book as far as I’m concerned. But there are definitely moments which I felt were not as strong as the majority of the content. For example, the premise is that someone has drawn chalk lines all over Gotham. Somehow Batman noticed these chalk lines, and he even put a satellite image together, and he sees a drawing of Batman with his heart right where Crime Alley is. I think that this is just such a weird premise, and somehow I have to suspend more disbelief than when I read about Batman marching to Apokolips to save his dead son. I think it’s because it’s just such an elaborate premise that it almost seems ridiculous to me. Because who does this? And how did Batman notice these chalk lines? (I mean, sure, he’s Batman, but does he really pay that much attention to chalk, especially with everything else that requires his attention?) But don’t get me wrong: I’m okay with this because it leads into a great horror scene in Crime Alley and sets up a wonderful comic!

Oh, and one thing I want to add is that I love how the narrative voice could belong to a number of characters. I assumed the speaker’s identity on first reading, but when I got to the end I wasn’t so sure anymore. (Or maybe I’m just crazy and seeing things!)

Josh: Yeah, you guys know that I can be hyper-critical of Snyder because I think he goes too big at times. But with stories like this (and Justice League), going big is the name of the game. It’s what he does really well, and he kills it here! I loved every page and every twist. Could this become one of my favorite Snyder stories of all time? Quite possibly…


Catwoman Annual #1

Selina Kyle walks a fine line in the criminal underworld. A thief herself, she’s regularly on the wrong side of the law, while her personal life gives her crooked colleagues plenty of reason to distrust her. When Catwoman finds herself at the center of a dark plot full of violence and intrigue, she’ll have to decide which side she is on…and who she can trust. If a leopard can’t change its spots, and a leopard is a cat…can Catwoman ever escape her own destiny?

Jay: This also took a while to go anywhere, and I don’t think it really paid off in the end, but I’m always down for a cool Rashōmon style “multiple perspectives” story.

Josh: I read this then immediately thought, “Well that happened. It’s a thing.” Then I picked up the next book in my pile without giving this story a second thought… In fact, I honestly don’t remember what actually happened. Selina trained people to steal, there was a murder, an Immortal Man, none of it really works in the timeline of Selina’s life… There’s no need to read this if you haven’t.

What did you think of this week’s books? Let us know in the chat below. And don’t forget to go to twitter and join me in my campaign to get Matt Reeves to give us a mustachioed Alfred in the new Batman movie. I’m tweeting at the guy every day until I get a response and I want you to do the same, or at least retweet my incessant pestering.