This Week in Comics: Someone burned down the Manor again

Hi! If this is your first time clicking on a This Week in Comics article, it’s basically a podcast that you have to read. Or a printed, multi-party interview that you have to read instead of listen to. Or something.

Anyway, here you’ll find all of the Batman News reviewers discussing the week’s releases. We also have links to full reviews from the Comics portion of the website– it’s the best part of Batman News, by the way. Tell your friends.

Batgirl​ #39

Credit: Carmine Di Giandomenico, Jordie Bellaire, and Andworld Design

After learning about “The Offer” from Killer Moth, Batgirl is on the case to figure out who is behind the rise of the villains in the DC Universe! Meanwhile, the Terrible Trio has gained full control over Oracle and is forcing her to cater to their every whim. But what happens when their puppet decides to cut her strings? Could this be the end of the Terrible Trio?

Brian: I haven’t read this book in a while, so I’ll have to live vicariously through Nancy’s reviews.

Nancy:​ As my review indicates, I enjoyed this issue a lot. It’s an interesting twist on the Frankenstein story. With modern tech at its disposal, the Oracle android has destructive potential Frankenstein’s monster would envy. I also liked the focus shifting away from the Terrible Trio. They come across as inept cowards, and I don’t understand why a brilliant super-computer considers them invaluable allies. For me, a little of them goes a long way.

I love what the story shows us about Babs, about what her Oracle identity meant and still means to her, and about her feelings about her time in Burnside. Those really are the core of the story, and they’re used in ways that tie into Oracle’s plot to get revenge on Babs for abandoning it. To me, those were the best sequences in the book.

Matina: ​I agree. I love that we got to see just how important Oracle was and is to her. I didn’t read much of her in Burnside, but you can feel how much she loved it there in the pages. After this issue, I’m warming up to this arc and interested to see where else it goes.

Jay:​ With every issue, I finish and think “yeah, I think I’m dropping this book,” yet I keep coming back. Will this be the one that finally breaks me? Stay tuned next month, Bat-fans!

Would you recommend buying this for $3.99?

Yes: ​Matina, Nancy

No:​ Jay

Check out Nancy’s full review here

Batman Beyond​ #36

Credit: Francis Manapul

“Lost Daze” finale! As everything around Neo-Gotham crumbles under Batman’s iron fist, the Fastest Man Alive might be the only one capable of saving Terry McGinnis and his city. But as powerful as he is, even the Flash might be no match for the Splitt and the mysterious False Face!

Jay: ​So for those keeping score, this makes ​two​ books that Dan Jurgens is writing where the title character has amnesia.

Casper:​ Yep, I noticed that as well. Also, the art in this comic really doesn’t work for me, and so it’s harder for me to get invested in this story. That said, the story itself also isn’t that great. Aside from the amnesia bit, this was just a fight scene, basically, but I never felt like there was anything really at stakes. It’s just going through the motions, and that’s it.

Matina: ​Yeah, this one was rough. I enjoyed the banter between Barry and Bruce, but otherwise I wasn’t a fan of this issue.

Michael​: Not great stuff going on here. It’s a shame as every arc til this one was quite good, but this really fell flat. Not digging the amnesia stuff at all, I was really hoping that would get resolved by the end of this issue. And the art is really…concerning.

Jay: ​I’ll give it a passing recommendation. The dynamic of the Twins was cool, and I liked their unique story and powerset. False-Face wasn’t more than a two-dimensional snarling villain, though, when he could have been so much more.

Would you recommend buying this for $3.99?

Yes:​ Jay

No: Casper, Matina, Michael

Check out Michael’s full review here

Batman: Curse of the White Knight​ #3

Credit: Sean Murphy, Matt Hollingsworth, and Deron Bennett

Batman salvages a groundbreaking clue from the wreckage of Wayne Manor and recruits Harley Quinn to confront The Joker for answers about the mystery of Gotham City’s foundations! Their investigation takes a dire turn in the darkest corners of Arkham, and Gordon’s life is in peril after a new commissioner is named.

Michael​: Okay, I’m back in. After last issue I was a little wary of this series, but this issue really stepped it up. I don’t know if I quite understood the whole “Joker took inspiration from the past” plot point, but everything else was incredibly riveting. The big death(?) at the end hit really hard, but it was all the great character interactions throughout the book that really drew me in. I’m glad Murphy fully committed to everyone knowing Batman’s identity as well. That was the main cliffhanger from the original series that excited me and I’m happy that it’s finally paying off here.

Jay​: I agree, Michael. The main story hasn’t been pulling me in the way it should, but this was pretty gripping throughout.

Brian: I’ve enjoyed it since issue #1, but this one “got real,” both with the ending shocker and the identity reveal. Yes, Bruce intended to reveal the identity anyway, but the “hero getting ready to come clean but is interrupted by responsibility or Aaron Eckhart” trope has been done enough that I never assumed anything. The weight of Bruce’s identity being out there—and the levity of Harvey being so pissy about it—were very effective devices here.

Casper:​ So… I really do think this is a really good book. The art is wonderful, the writing is great, and this has a lot of elements that I love in ​Batman​ stories. And yet, for some reason, things don’t really click for me. I’m trying to decide what it is. Maybe it’s because I haven’t read the first series yet? Or maybe it’s because this book doesn’t have the kind of unique angle that I was hoping for. Sure, it does turn a lot of stuff upside-down, but at the end of the day it comes down to another Batman versus Joker story. I’m definitely giving this another chance with the next issue, and I will try to find the time to read the first series, but I’m just not really feeling it (yet). I still recommend this because I do recognize the craftsmanship that goes into making this book. I have mad respect for Murphy as an artist, no matter what!

Michael​: I definitely think reading the first series would help a lot. If I had any major complaint it would be that the plot really hasn’t found its forward momentum yet. The first series really set itself up quick and effectively. This one is slower, but effectively continuing threads from the original. I forgot to mention there were a few lines of dialogue I raised my eyebrow at (one involving a coat hanger), but nothing too deal breaking—and it is a Black Label book after all. I just personally didn’t find it suitable and kind of out of place.

Brian: The coat hanger line was definitely a shocker, but I didn’t think it was out of place. We didn’t get a ton of Murphy’s Joker in the first series, because it focused on the medicated Napier instead; but, to me, now that we see him, he’s perfectly consistent with the canonical Joker in his cruelty. Consider A Death in the Family, and the brutality shown towards Jason Todd (deserving though he was). I think this fits. He knows which buttons to push to get Harley to react, and he did it here; even though she hadn’t had the opportunity to reveal her feelings about the pregnancy in his presence, he knows her well enough to discern those feelings and stab at them.

And I just really enjoyed the “no, calm down Batman” followed by her own outrage.

Also, as I pointed out in my review, Murphy’s Harley is just a beautiful piece of artwork. She’s aesthetically pretty of course, but I’m thinking of her expressions, her posture. Murphy manages to wring so much emotion out of her, often with very few lines. Really, really good stuff.

Would you recommend buying this for $3.99?

Yes:​ Brian, Casper, Jay, Michael

No: Nobody

Check out Brian’s full review here

Batman/Superman​ #2

Credit: David Marquez, Alejandro Sanchez, and John J. Hill

The Batman Who Laughs’ plot is bigger than either the Caped Crusader or the Man of Steel realized. Following a showdown with the devious killer’s first sentinel, a jacked-up, Dark Multiverse-infected Shazam!, the pair has to figure out who else has been targeted for similar transformations. Their first two guesses: someone very close to Batman and the one hero that would make failure nearly impossible—Superman himself!

Casper:​ You know, the art is really good in this, but I don’t like how Superman and Batman are written. They don’t act like experienced heroes who have been doing their job for a long time. They act more like teenagers that don’t entirely get along but are forced to try and make it work.

Jay: ​Yeah, completely agree. Other than the hilariously over-the-top “I’m always the weapon!” line, I thought the dialogue was pretty atrocious throughout.

Brian: This may sound harsh, but Williamson’s work on The Flash has soured me on reading pretty much anything he’s writing at DC. I gave him a chance last month, but I just don’t have time to read books I don’t enjoy (unless I’m reviewing them!), so I’m going to keep passing until someone tells me I’m missing something.

Jay: It sure does look pretty, though. My goodness…

Brian: No argument there. Maybe I’ll just skim it each week.

Casper: ​Also, Bruce was being really weird during the second half where he woke up in the Fortress of Solitude. Why he destroyed Kelex is beyond me… And where are the Secret Six? Let’s go already!

Michael​: I love the art but I agree that Batman and Superman feel a little off in the writing. I can get why they’re written as a little bit heightened in order to create more drama between the two, but it stands out as a distraction from time to time. I did really like the cliffhanger though, I thought that was pretty fun. I just don’t care much for another heroes fighting heroes plotline.

Matina:​ I agree, Batman and Superman also felt off to me. Shazam’s dialog also felt a bit grating at times. I know he’s a kid, but some of those lines were simply odd. Generally this issue didn’t do it for me. I was pretty interested after the last one, but even with that cliffhanger I’m not sure.

Casper:​ If you want to create some drama between the two main characters, then there should be a good reason for that. I don’t think that there’s a good reason in this book. As for Shazam’s dialogue, it was needlessly edgy, and it also seems like it wasn’t really edited properly. There were some clunky lines in there (see my review for more on this).

Michael​: Oh yeah, I hated the Shazam dialogue, forgot about that. I had to re-read a few lines because I wasn’t even sure what the bleeped out word could even be.

Would you recommend buying this for $3.99?

Yes:​ Nobody

No: Casper, Michael, Matina, Jay

Check out Casper’s full review here

Detective Comics​ #1012

Credit: Doug Mahnke, Jaime Mendoz, and David Baron

“Year of the Villain” kicks into overdrive! Victor Fries has only ever wanted one thing…to bring his wife Nora back to life in a healthy body. Now, with Lex Luthor’s aid, Victor’s wish will finally come true. But how will Nora adjust to the new world she has missed? And how will Batman try to tear Victor’s dream away from him?

Nancy:​ This brings us back to one story per book, and I prefer that. I would’ve liked a little faster start to the story, but once it got going, it was engrossing. As Jay said in his review, you can’t help sympathizing with Freeze, even when you’re appalled at the horrific things he’s doing. I feel that way about Freeze in general and about his current plan. His inability to see how awful it is underlines how far around the bend he has gone. The story is logically plotted, and I liked the bit on the yacht at the beginning, which Jay referenced in his review. The parallel uses of snow worked well. I also enjoyed the excerpted 911 calls, which I hear are sadly typical of the real world, and the look at Bruce and Alfred in the Batcave while the calls play. There was also a great bit between Batman and Bullock.

I’m not crazy about stories that are set several issues back in the continuity. This one occurs before ​Batman​ #77, and I couldn’t remember exactly which issue that was. It became clear as I read along, but if we’re going to go back in time, I’d like a little more reference than an issue number to jog my memory.

Jay: ​Setting it before Batman #77 (when it has no actual connection to the events of that book at all) kind of rankled me too. I said it before: if Alfred’s death is the thing that sticks from that run when nothing else has mattered, that will… annoy me greatly.

Still, Tomasi does what Tomasi does and gives us a great story regardless.

Brian: He Tomasis so hard, and hits the Tomasi right on the Tomasi.

Matina​: I’ve been waiting on the Freeze story to start for a while now and I can honestly say I really enjoyed this. I agree, you can’t help but feel bad for Freeze, but at the same time this thing he’s done is so horrible. That kind of conflict is something I really enjoy, and I’m interested to see how it plays out over the rest of this arc. I think the slow pace of the book worked really well in building up to the reveal of what Freeze’s plan really was. I had theories, but until that point I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, and the pacing was so good that when I reached the reveal I had to sit back for a moment and process everything. I adored the scene between Bruce and Alfred. It’s great to see them together doing normal (for them) things and listening to the scanner to keep up with what’s going on in Gotham. Tomasi does a great job creating moments between them that show how close they are.

Nancy:​ I like the way Tomasi handles the Bat family in general. For me, the ties between the different characters are part of what makes the comic enjoyable.

Jay:​ Totally. He gets their voices and has them down pat.

Casper:​ Yeah, this was a good read. Mahnke’s doing a great job. His Freeze looks intimidating and strong, but it’s not overdone, or anything.

Brian: I love Mahnke’s work overall, but there are some panels where it looks like Mendoza inked ghost lines that Mahnke didn’t intend to make the final cut. This isn’t the first time I’ve noticed that, and while it doesn’t sink the ship, it does look pretty sloppy.

Casper: I also really appreciate how human Tomasi continues to make Bruce. Even when Bullock calls him the Bat God of the Night, Bruce responds in a very down-to-earth, human way. The ending was pretty great too and I’m a little bit disappointed the comic ended there and I have to wait for the next issue. ​Detective Comics has so much energy lately, it’s great!

Michael​: A ton of fun per usual. Not sure if it was just me but the final splash page made me laugh out loud. There might have been too much time dedicated to Freeze’s somewhat bumbling henchmen, but the scenes with Bruce and Alfred were really nice to read. I think I like the book’s sense of humor the most of everything. Unlike something like ​Batman Universe,​ which is completely over the top camp, the humor here is more subtle and doesn’t feel quite as out of place. Great art as well.

Would you recommend buying this for $3.99?

Yes:​ Brian, Casper, Jay, Matina, Michael, Nancy

No: Nobody

Check out Jay’s full review here

Harleen #1

Credit: Stjepan Šejić and Gabriela Downie

Dr. Harleen Quinzel has discovered a revolutionary cure for the madness of Gotham City—she just needs to prove it actually works. But with the criminal justice and mental health establishments united against her, the brilliant young psychologist must take drastic measures to save Gotham from itself. Witness Harleen’s first steps on a doomed quest that will give birth to the legendary super-villain Harley Quinn in this stunning reimagining of Harley and The Joker’s twisted and tragic love affair by visionary storyteller Stjepan Šejic (AQUAMAN: UNDERWORLD, SUICIDE SQUAD, Sunstone).

Nick:​ Oh my god.

Oh my ​god.

So, this was fantastic. This is the kind of book that just reignites my passion for comics.

Casper:​ Having read several of Sejic’s comics before this, I had high expectations going into this. And Šejič delivered! His art is put together so well, it’s crazy. And the writing is definitely on par too. For a more detailed analysis, please see my review! By the way, it’s so refreshing to read a more serious and grounded take on Harleen’s transformation into Harley Quinn, especially in a world where we are bombarded with ​Harley Quinn​ comics which aren’t always exactly good comics.

Matina: ​I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this comic. I wasn’t sure how to feel about it going in, because I’m generally not a fan of descent into madness stories or rehashing things I think I know, but this surprised me in all the best ways. It was just really well done and I found myself more interested in Harley’s history than I’ve been in a while. I do really like the serious take, and this in depth look at who she was before.

Nick: ​ARG. Did I mention I love this? I really, REALLY don’t know where to start. The art was so compelling, and I love how he portrayed the Joker as a snake – someone who doesn’t necessarily lie, but encourages those little urges until the sins of the one he’s manipulating pile up more and more. Šejič’s analogies are wonderful, and I adore how fleshed-out he made his entire world of Gotham in just one issue! This might be one of the best Batman books I’ve read this year, if not in the last few years. Everyone really feels like a person, believable and relatable, and GOD do you get wrapped up in Harleen’s story. The way Joker’s demonic self is depicted too is just… PLEASE keep making more, Šejič. I am not a fan of Murphy’s universe (for a lot of reasons), so I adore that I have a new artist-driven DC world to latch onto. What a stellar issue from start to finish. This has every chance of being my favorite Harley story ever, and high on my list of DC books.

Casper:​ Dude, Nick, I didn’t know where to start either when I was writing my review. There is so much to talk about. There are so many subtle things in the art that make it so great. If I talked about everything in this book, I’d end up writing an insanely long review that nobody would read because of its length—haha! But I’m totally with you, man. This book is great!

Jay:​ So, I flipped through this and really admired the art, but didn’t care enough to read it. You guys say it’s great, though? I might have to rectify that.

Brian: I need to check this one out, too.

Would you recommend buying this for $3.99?

Yes:​ Casper, Nick, Matina

No: Nobody

Check out Casper’s full review here

Red Hood: Outlaw #38

Credit: Kenneth Rocafort, Steve Firchow, and Troy Peteri

This is the Year of the Villain, and Red Hood has been tasked by Lex Luthor with training the worst teens in the DC Universe to become the super-villains of tomorrow. But while these kids may think they’re the future of villainy, they’re about to learn they may already be doomed. Reiser is rampaging through a S.T.A.R. Labs facility, unleashed like never before. Can the Red Hood see DNA, Cloud Nine, Devour and the enigmatic Babe in Arms safely home, or is this one field trip no one should have gotten permission to go on? Plus, where in the world are Artemis and Bizarro now?

Matina:​ We can all agree that Pup Pup was the best part of this, right?

Jay: ​Pup Pup is always the best part, so yes.

Casper:​ I didn’t read this, so I’ll just take your word for it!

Jay:​ You’re not missing much, though I am glad that Artemis and Bizarro are getting more play. Rocafort’s Art was pretty strong too, but not enough to really recommend the issue.

Besides Pup Pup, of course.

Brian: Pup Pup’s back? PUP PUP’S BACK?!?!?! I might need to read this one now.

Would you recommend buying this for $3.99?

Yes:​ Nobody

No: Jay, Matina

Check out Matina’s full review here