Last month I gave this title a positive review for the first time. It seemed that the book was finally on track with a clear direction, fun character dynamics, and a better tone. So, I’ve been looking forward to seeing what happens next. Let’s find out if our intrepid creative team can keep building on their momentum!
Well, as much as I wanted to like this issue, as much as I hoped I would, all progress has been lost. This installment is right back to the quality of the first three. Once again, decompression takes its toll. This issue was filler, plain and simple. Last month, after finding the Fortress of Solitude was missing, Batman discovered it was underwater and decided to recruit more heroes to help him break in. Honestly, I would have been happy enough if they were introduced in one page but instead Whitta wastes 15 pages on this! It’s two characters; Jackson Hyde (Aquaman) and Emiko Queen (Red Arrow). So their introductions drag on too long, but that’s only the beginning of the problems. Jackson is introduced as he tries to hook up with a guy on the beach. This scene isn’t relevant to the story, to begin with. It’s far too long winded to be a characterization moment so it feels more like Whitta wanted to make a statement about bigotry more than anything (although it boils down pretty simply to “bigots=bad.” Look, I just want you to say something of substance. Don’t treat social issues like a Twitter post.). Besides that, it could have still worked if it wasn’t so uncomfortable. First, Jackson tries to pressure this guy (Wade) into going swimming despite knowing Wade cannot swim and is afraid of the water. Then a group of dudes who Wade had been hanging out with show up and threaten to beat them up. (Apparently, they can sense gayness.) Jackson creates a tidal wave and ends up underwater with Wade. They kiss, still underwater where Wade can’t protest. It’s meant to be a romantic moment but it gets a little dicey when they get out of the water and Wade wants nothing to do with Jackson anymore. You also have to wonder how Jackson found this guy to begin with. The whole scene unintentionally makes Jackson seem kind of predatory.
The art is also a big part of the problem. Like I’ve said before, Darick Robertson is not the best suited to drawing dramatic scenes like this. His forte is very much action and here he attempts to evoke some romantic atmosphere but the expressions often end up looking a little creepy.
Next, we move on to Red Arrow’s introduction. I have a problem with her as well but this time it’s not unintentional on Whitta’s part. For some reason, he has chosen to make her a criminal. She murders people so she can steal their money “but it’s okay because they’re criminals.” Batman is still fine with working with her as well. I guess desperate times call for desperate measures but the Batman I know would never make that distinction. Issue one did establish this as a Batman who is fine with violent riots though.
Neither of these characters want to help save the world and they take a lot of convincing as well. They’re not particularly heroic.
Batman’s voice is also poorly captured in this issue. He comes across as way too chatty. “Maybe you hadn’t heard, but the world kinda needs saving.” What? I’m not saying Batman is easy to write but this feels like a lack of editing. I can’t imagine any version of the character speaking like this.
I focus so much on characterization here because this book is so decompressed. Essentially, there is no plot development in this issue. Even the last few pages where they search for the fortress are mostly made up by useless conversations.
The art is generally inferior this month as well. Usually, that’s just a result of boring scenes but we are also treated to this:
That hand is misproportioned, foreshortened incorrectly, and generally terribly drawn. This is easily the worst panel in the issue but honestly, it’s so far below the standard a company like DC should keep that I think it’s important to note.
On the plus side, Lex Luthor has a new power suit and it’s ridiculous. I kind of love it.
- You want more Jackson Hyde and Emiko Queen even if they aren’t written very well
- More Batman is good Batman
- You like filler
This book just shouldn’t exist. With tighter writing, it could have been salvaged and been a decent comic but as it stands it’s just one more unnecessary Batman story that no one will remember when it ends. It isn’t aggressively terrible but the sad truth is that the worst of the worst are remembered for all time while stories like this may as well have never existed.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purposes of this review.