You know, for a relatively light shipping week (it is a fifth Wednesday, after all), there was still a lot of Batman to talk about.  Out of seven books DC shipped this past week, five were Batman or Batman-related.  Crazy.

Brian was on vacation this week too, so it’s just three of us in the discussion, but Casper, Josh and I still had a great time doing what we love: talking Batman.

Read on to hear our thoughts on two separate Snyder books, the return of Bizarro and Artemis, and lots more.  Feel free to join in the discussion yourself by letting us know what you thought in the comments below.

Batman: Last Knight in Earth #2

Josh: I know I’m the one that usually complains about massive, over-the-top stories, but Last Knight on Earth is excellent!

Jay: This is crazybonkers and still emotionally involving.  Kudos to Snyder and Capullo for that, because I even felt bad for Luthor.

Josh: Agreed. 

Casper: Yeah, man. I also felt bad for the Flashes in that Speed Force storm! I’m loving this book, though. It’s so good. Capullo, Glapion and FCO are outdoing themselves here, and Snyder is writing this crazy story with twists and turns along the way, and it’s all so unpredictable and wild. A true adventure!

Josh: It is unpredictable, but it’s not falling into the trap of being unpredictable for the sake of being unpredictable. Snyder is focused on telling a quality story, and there are strong ties taking it back to his Batman run. In fact, this actually feels like the final chapter of his run. A dystopian, else-world final chapter, but still.

Casper: I definitely feel that, Josh. DC has been marketing this as Snyder and Capullo’s final Batman story, and it really reads like that. And if this really is their final Batman story, then, holy @#$%, these guys have been saving the best for last!

Josh: Snyder’s use of characters here is excellent. Batman, Lex, Diana, Alfred, Superman, Bane, Scarecrow… It’s all good. The only character that I feel I could honestly do without is Joker. I don’t feel as though he serves a purpose. He did in the first issue, but now he’s just there.

Casper: Actually, I kind of felt the same way about Joker until Ultan Schmultan, one of our readers, commented under my review how Joker might actually be a hallucination and not actually there. Ultan has a good argument, too, so definitely check out that post if you’re interested. I think it’s a fun theory, and, if true, it will enhance this story for sure.

Jay: I buy that.  His desire to be a Robin is pretty funny too, but poor horse.  R.I.P. horse.

Josh: So, Omega… Any thoughts on who is behind the mask? I initially thought it would be one of three people: Lincoln March, Dick Grayson, or Damian Wayne… But then we got that reveal at the end with Dick – which I loved by the way – so now I’m just down to Lincoln and Damian.

Casper: I loved the reveal with Dick too! And I really hope it’s not Dick or Damian. I trust Snyder and Capullo to come up with something awesome if it actually turns out that it is either Dick or Damian, but it just doesn’t seem like the most creative and interesting decision to me. But Lincoln … now that is interesting. That character has just kind of disappeared after the “Court of Owls” saga, and seeing him return here in this way could be cool!

Jay: I think Omega has been hinted at as far back as All-Star Batman #1.  I can’t remember the exact line, but it’s phrased in a way that makes it sound like Bruce had an early failure from before even Dick was on the scene.

Casper: All right. I’ll have to go back and check that out, then. In any case, it’s pretty cool to see how Last Knight ties all these stories together.

Would you recommend buying this for $5.99?

Yes: Jay, Casper, Josh

Read Casper’s full review here.

The Batman Who Laughs #7

Jay: Something about this kept me at arms-length.  

Josh: Same.

Jay: I liked quite a few story beats, especially the scenes between Jim and James in the latter half of the book.  Jock’s work felt kind of rushed, though, which took me out of it.

Josh: I literally thought the same thing about Jock’s work as well. Jock’s lines are never the cleanest, but there was something about this issue that just didn’t feel as impactful as what I’ve come to expect from Jock. He usually wins me with his storytelling, and it just didn’t grab me here. Maybe that’s the reason for feeling at an arm’s length?

Casper: I didn’t think Jock’s work was rushed. I actually quite liked it. There were some cool sequential passages here and I dig the horror vibes. 

Josh: Actually, Casper, I’ll agree with you there. The horror aspects were phenomenal. The nightmare elements Bruce kept seeing, and the image of the Batman Who Laughs chained up in the Hall of Justice… They were pretty terrifying. 

Jay: Okay, that’s fair.  I definitely agree that the horror elements were rendered well.  He has a good eye for the macabre and disturbing.

Casper: Yeah! However, I am slightly disappointed about BWL’s whole villainous act in the end, because once more we see a big supervillain threatening the entirety of Gotham, and it’s the same old, same old. Why does anybody even want to live in that city anymore? 

Jay: Because Batman lives there.  Duh.

Josh: Ha! Christian – my other half – asks me this all the time. 

Casper: Well, I guess Christian’s on to something — haha! Anyway, every Wednesday every single person living in that city either gets Jokerized, or Scarecrow is injecting them with weird drugs and they hallucinate nightmares, or Bane comes in and takes over the city and has villains operate as some kind of twisted law enforcement, or BWL tries to turn everyone into the worst versions of themselves. 

Josh: Yeah, I think it’s just that we’re in this unfortunate time in comics where “big” is related to “good,” but we know that isn’t the case. I think personal stories with actual progression will have a better long-term resonance with readers, but we don’t really get that anymore. 

As for this issue in particular… I thought a lot of it was predictable – especially the portions with James and James Jr. I think Snyder could’ve done a better job setting that subplot up. As for BWL, I think the most terrifying he’s been was back in issue one or two when he attacked Wayne Enterprises, Wayne Corp… Whatever it was. That was great. 

Jay: Totally.  He’s one of those villains who’s scarier the less you know about him.

Josh: I actually felt as though Batman may have met his match, but then things went into grand, crazy, bonkers territory.

Casper: Yeah. So, just to be clear, I still enjoyed The Batman Who Laughs #7 a lot and there are passages in this issue that I really loved (as I discussed in my review), but for a story that’s been very unpredictable and rooted in claustrophobic body horror, I think that this final issue doesn’t quite match the tone of the overall series.

THE FOLLOWING IS SPOILERISH… I’M NOT SURE IF WE SHOULD OR SHOULDN’T INCLUDE IT, BUT I PUT A SPOILER TAG TO BE SAFE. 

Josh: Before we move on to the next title, I want to touch on the reveal with Gordon being infected. Clearly he’s one of the Secret Six coming up in Batman/ Superman. That now means three characters have been confirmed… 

Spoiler

Josh: Shazam, Hawkman, and Gordon… and I think DC revealed their hand in their last teaser for the title. In the image, these three characters are all touching their face. Then there are three other characters touching their face: Supergirl, Donna Troy, and Blue Beetle (Jaime Reyes). I believe we have our new Secret Six… Also, for the sake of providing credit, I stumbled on this thanks to FHIZ, who used to run gothamspoilers.com. I just want to give credit where credit is due. 

Casper: Yep. I think so too. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about Gordon being on the Secret Six like this, but, for all I know, it could be really cool. At least the character gets to do something different. And different isn’t always better, but at least it has me intrigued. I’ll be reviewing the Batman/Superman series, so you guys will find out what I think about this whole thing soon!

Jay: Like anything, it has potential.  Let’s just see if it lives up to it.

Would you recommend buying this for $4.99?

Yes: Jay, Casper, Josh 

Read Casper’s full review here.

Batman: Secret Files #2

Josh: I didn’t have high expectations coming into this, but I thought this was a decent collection of stories. Nothing really wowed me, but there was still plenty to enjoy. Do we want to just break down each of the individual stories?

Jay: Sure.  Like you I didn’t have high expectations, and while I didn’t love this it was perfectly enjoyable.

Casper: I didn’t have high expectations, either, but I was looking forward to Risso’s and Gleason’s contributions, and I really like their work in this issue. I also enjoyed this book overall.

Josh: Guys… Great minds think alike. Haha!

Jay: Well that was a short discussion.

Josh: The first story, “If the Suit Fits” is written by Andy Kubert, with line art by Amancay Nahuelpan and featured the Joker. I thought this story was fine. I liked the humor and camp of it, but it was far from perfect. 

Jay: The art elevated this above “just sort of fine.”

Casper: Far from perfect, indeed. It was a bit of a weird reading experience for me, because there were panels in there that I really loved, and then there were panels that I didn’t like as much, and it was almost like there were two different artists at work. But it was the same artist. I do really like the idea of the story, though, and I like how Batman’s suit did most of the work for him.

Josh: Agreed! There were panels that reminded me of Joker from Batman the Animated Series, and I could almost hear Mark Hamill’s voice saying the lines… Then there were those questionable panels that completely derailed that idea. 

Jay: In a good way, this felt like a short that the BTAS crew would have come up with.  Good call.

Josh: Like Casper, I enjoyed that Batman’s suit did the work. I also enjoyed how confident Batman was, as well as how nonchalant, yet totally annoyed, Joker was. 

Casper: Yes, Batman and Joker’s attitudes toward each other is what makes this story work for sure!

Josh: The second story in this collection is, “He Helps Us.” Psycho Pirate is featured here, and it is written by Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing, with line art by Carlos D’Anda. Now, I’m typically not a fan of Kelly or Lanzing’s work, but I honestly didn’t mind this one… And me saying “I don’t mind it,” is probably the best comment I’ve ever made about their work. 

Jay: Hahaha.  I’ve come to like some of Lanzing and Kelly’s work that isn’t mainstream superhero comics.  Star Trek: Year Five from IDW is really good, for instance.  But, yes, this was fine.

Casper: I’m not sure about this story. I dig the idea that Psycho Pirate is controlling those people and that Batman has to stop him. I’ve been wanting to read a Batman story like that featuring Psycho Pirate for a while, because I like Psycho Pirate. But when I reached the end, I wasn’t thoroughly enjoying it but I also didn’t hate it, so I’m of the same opinion as you, Josh. I didn’t mind it. Although I didn’t really like everything about the art, there were definitely some good panels in here, and some of the angles and page layouts and sequential passages were engaging. But the overall aesthetic doesn’t work for me. This may just be a matter of taste, though. What did you guys think about the art here?

Josh: I wasn’t crazy about D’Anda’s art. It wasn’t bad, but I didn’t connect with it. It’s more of an aesthetic thing with me though. D’Anda’s stylization didn’t seem like the best partner for the story. That being said, I would’ve liked to have seen the idea of this story expanded – especially if you set it up correctly. 

Jay: Yeah, agreed.  It was a good idea that wasn’t taken far enough.  That was my qualm with a lot of the stories in this issue, in fact.

Josh: Think about it. If you had a Batman run where you told four or five arcs, and during those arcs you had completely street-level characters popping up in minor ways just to show how seedy Gotham is (prostitutes, gang members, drug dealers, people who commit domestic abuse, etc), and then one arc they all start turning their life around. I’d read that. Batman would think he’d impacted change until he realized it is too many to be a coincidence. Set it up right and you could get some incredible pay-off. I’m all about those long-games when they’re done correctly.

Casper: Yeah, dude, that actually sounds a lot better than what we got. That’s a great premise for a thrilling detective/noir story, which is something that I would really love to see more of from DC.

Josh: The third story in this collection, and my personal favorite, is “Alone” featuring the Riddler. Mairghread Scott covers the writing duties here, with line art by Giuseppe Camuncoli. I thought the story itself was just ok, but the actual writing and dialogue were fantastic. It definitely reminded me of why I miss Scott on Batgirl.

Casper: I definitely like Camuncoli’s art here, too, besides Scott’s writing. But the writing was definitely the strongest part of this story, because it was a good character study of Riddler.

Jay: See, I thought it could have been a great character study, it just needed more time to breathe.  What was here was great, it just never fully realized its own thesis. Scott needed a good dozen or so more pages.

Casper: Hmmm. Yeah. I still think that Scott did a good job, but I guess that almost all these stories could’ve benefited from more pages.

Josh: The next story is “Doctor of Psychiatric Medicine” by Steve Orlando and Eduardo Risso, spotlighting Dr. Hugo Strange… Uh… Look, I’m a fan of Orlando, but this was probably my least favorite story of the group. I just didn’t care for the Saw-type aspect of the story, and it almost felt more like something a super-evil Riddler would do instead of Hugo Strange. 

Casper: I actually did enjoy this one. I dig Risso’s art, and I thought the story itself was thrilling. It’s all about Strange’s obsession with Batman, which reminded me of older stories like Prey, except the Hugo Strange in this story is way more evil and a full-on psycho. I guess that if you’re a purist, this Huge Strange may be a bit much for you, but if you’re into this kind of horror, you might end up really enjoying it, like me. 

Josh: Yeah, I’m one of those loyalists. I want Hugo to be obsessed, but this seems like it’s going too far. This is more like the Gotham version of Hugo Strange than the comic version. 

Jay: Eh, he’s a loon and hasn’t had consistent characterization for a long time.  I didn’t think this was too far out for him.

Casper: But, that said, I do feel like this story just isn’t really going anywhere. The ending kind of loops back to the beginning and there’s no real development, or anything. Of course, it’s just a really short story, so there isn’t a lot of room to develop the story more, I think. Although, on the other hand, the fact that Strange doesn’t figure out Batman and just starts over also speaks to his obsession with Batman and it illustrates how insane Strange is. Depending on your reading of this story, the ending may or may not work for you.

Josh: I can see that… but it still didn’t work for me. I still don’t completely understand what Strange thinks he’s going to get out of doing all of this. These people aren’t Batman, so it’s not actually going to help him understand Batman any better… I don’t know. I just wasn’t a fan. I’ll take naked Hugo Strange any day over this. 

Casper: Josh, we’ve been over this last week. There are enough naked villains in Gotham!

Josh: Tim Seeley delivers the final story with Patrick Gleason on art. Bane is featured here, and I really enjoyed it. “Alethephobia” is easily at the top for me along with “Alone.”

Casper: Dude! Gleason’s Bane is so cool! 

Jay: That first shot of Bane crashing through a window or whatever?  ::chef’s kiss::

Casper: I wish that Gleason was drawing Bane on the main Batman ongoing! But then I’d probably want Tomasi to write the main ongoing, too, and by then I’d probably want a different story altogether in the main book … XD

Anyway, I’m also really excited to see Gleason’s name on a book. He’s definitely one of my favorite artists. I liked the interaction between Bane and Daniel, too, and it reminds of how well Bane could be written. He seems more intelligent and focused here than in the ongoing at the moment, where he’s both pretending to be a drunk Captain Kirk and, I guess, a drunk Hulk that just wants to smash things and break costumed vigilante’s backs because it’s Wednesday, and that’s what Wednesdays are for, apparently.

Josh: Bane has definitely been missing the intelligence aspect. I need more than, “He planned everything!” to serve as intelligence… Specifically, I’d like details into why and how. Seeley’s interpretation takes me back to the Knightfall/ No Man’s Land depiction. It also reminds me of the complexity of the character that Gail Simone infused into him during Secret Six. Those were the good days. 

Casper: Lastly, this final story, of course, is mostly just setup for King’s final arc on Batman, and in that sense almost like an ad. But it was just so well written and drawn that I don’t mind that at all. Gleason is just killing it here!

Jay: This is the closest this book felt like a tie-in to the main event, and even then it didn’t really feel connected to King’s story.

Josh: The problem is that it’s better written than the main title, so I can’t help but feel it will only add to the let-down from “City of Bane.”

Would you recommend buying this for $4.99?

Yes: Casper, Josh, Jay

Read Jay’s full review here.

Justice League Dark Annual #1

Jay: This took forever to get anywhere, but once it did I really enjoyed how creepy it was.

Casper: I thought this was a really nice read. The art is beautiful and the writing, though perhaps a little bit too poetic at times, is quite engaging. For example, when Natasha tells her friend how she’s feeling she says, “My grief has sunk into its foundations — underneath its columns and hammering in the pipes.” This isn’t how people usually talk to each other. This line might work in descriptive prose or a journal entry, but as dialogue it just seems really out of place. But other than these moments — which, really, are few and far between — I really ended up enjoying this story a lot! I have to say I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did, so that’s a pleasant surprise. The creative team made me care about Oleander Sorrel, and I feel sorry for him.

Jay: Same here.  I actually really liked the prose sections that dove into Sorrel’s last days.  They were pretty heartbreaking and genuinely moving, and his transformed appearance was unsettling in the best way.

Would you recommend buying this for $4.99?

Yes: Casper, Jay

Red Hood and the Outlaws Annual #3

Josh: Well, I’m happy to see Bizarro and Artemis return, but the story itself is just ok in a wonderfully weird way. 

Jay: Exactly.  “Wonderfully weird” is a perfect summation of this issue.

Casper: Well, you guys know that I’m not the biggest fan of Jason Todd and only sporadically read Red Hood comics. But I did check out this annual, and I liked it. The designs of all the characters were super fun, even the weird design for Luthor. 

Jay: Of course Luthor would mutate/evolve into just a giant head.

Josh: Luthor’s design kind of reminded me of something I’d see in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or something. He was gross. Haha!

Casper: So gross, haha! Anyway, not having read the Rebirth Red Hood stuff, I still think that Artemis and Bizarro are cool characters. All in all, this was a fun adventure. Not the best book we’re discussing this week, but definitely fun!

Josh: Yeah, I mean… It is what it is. I’m not sure if this will actually serve as a return for these characters, or if this is just DC’s way of saying, “Ok, you have answers now. We’re going to keep moving in the direction we’ve been heading.” 

Artemis and Bizarro brought a lot of heart to the title in unique ways, and we get to see glimpses of that here. They even manage to bring out the best in Jason, so I’d really like to see all of that again in the near future…. But seriously, who was that kid at the beginning?

Jay: Don’t know, and I totally forgot about that until… just now.  Shows how much of an impact it made on me.

Casper: Well, don’t ask me. Like I said, this is literally the first Red Hood comic I’ve read in quite a while. I assumed the kid was a recurring character in the latest Red Hood arc, but that’s not actually the case? That’s kind of weird.

Would you recommend buying this for $4.99?

Yes: Casper, Jay, Josh

Read Josh’s full review here.