Friday, September 2, 2011

New Comics!: The Bat-Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Batman #713:  The first hint that the narrator of this issue wasn't exactly detached was when he described the third Robin -- Tim Drake -- as a "tragic mistake."  At first, I thought I had missed something, some tragedy that befell Tim, since, after all, he has arguably surpassed even Dick Grayson as the quintessential Robin.  (Even Dick says so in "Batman:  Gates of Gotham" #3.)  The second hint was when he twice mentioned what an honor it was for people to be friends with Dick.  The reveal that the narrator was Damian made sense in those two regards, though I'm not sure it did in regards to the rest of the book.  Damian is a little too...sappy in this issue, even if we accept the premise of the issue, that Dick has changed him.  My guess is that Nicieza went with it to underline the impact Dick has had on Damian's life, given that their partnership will at least end with the reboot, if not be entirely erased by it.  But, in the end, it just doesn't sound like Damian, Dick's influence or not, making the reveal at the end fall flat for me.  All that said, I'm not entirely sure anyone could find a way to end "Batman" in a way that didn't feel at least partially artificial, and I think Nicieza does his best.  However, I was disappointed that Stephanie Brown was never mentioned as a Robin.  It makes sense that Damian wouldn't have mentioned her but DC has so criminally mishandled Stephanie's brief tenure as Robin that it was disappointing that it continues to do so even here, what could be her last shot at inclusion.  I guess all we have left now is seeing what the reboot really does.  Fingers crossed it doesn't suck.

Batman:  Arkham City #5:  OK, anything I was going to say about this book's plot or story was completely obliterated when I saw the blonde Robin?  WTF?  Is it Chris O'Donnell?  Are we bringing back suit-nipples?  I just don't know what to say.  Where the "inFAMOUS" series did a pretty great job stoking my interest in the game, I can't say this mini-series has had an effect one way or another.  Unlike the "inFAMOUS" series, we're probably going to see most of what happens here recapped in the game itself, since it's unlikely the game's authors are just going to throw us into the plot.  Dini and D'Anda do some nice character work on the full-page spreads of the main villains in terms of setting up the game, but it squanders the opportunity, in terms of the book, to develop the story, which feels sort of abandoned halfway through this issue.  At the end of the day, I'm excited about "Arkham City" because the first game was awesome, not necessarily because of anything done here.  (A blonde Robin?  Really?)

Batman:  The Dark Knight #5:  What can I say about this book?  These five issues have been so terrible that I can't believe they actually managed to get published.  Harsh but true.  Did DC not ask Finch to provide scripts with enough time to realize they made a mistake?  I don't even know where to start.  The dialogue continues with "Insolent fool!" type of comments, Bruce has apparently become a bleak, bad poet, and the Ragman...yeah, well, the less said about that whole mess the better.  Let's just say, I've canceled this book for the reboot.

Batman:  Gates of Gotham #5:  Wait, who?  Who the hell is Dillon May?  I had to re-read the entire series to discover the answer, that we never actually meet Dillon May.  He was the last owner of the Architect's suit, though it was reported stolen six months before the events of the story take place; Tim and Damian encounter the Architect at May's apartment, in issue #3.  When Dick somewhat nonchalantly mentions that he's the Architect on the first page of issue #5, however, I felt like I had missed an issue.  Although now, reading the whole series again, I see the direction Snyder and Higgins were going, it makes me realize that this series, like a lot of mini-series today, seemed written more for its inevitable trade-paperback form than for a monthly format.  I think it's a lot to expect us to remember the details of a character we never actually met two months after he was (theoretically) introduced.  Moreover, Higgins seemed to be leading us to believe that the trick of this mini-series was some sort of time-displaced villain (maybe a revived Nicholas had stolen the suit), but instead it's actually just that the Gates family produces delusional nutjobs.  I think part of the problem here is that Higgins didn't really connect the dots for us.  Not only did we never meet May (thereby never getting a chance to make our impression of him), but the Bat-family also makes a lot of connections based on information we never see them get.  How did Dick find out those suits caused mental illness?  Tim doesn't mention it when he's briefing him on the suits in issue #3; moreover, Dick couldn't have had time to read all of the Nicholas' journal in issue #4, since he pretty much goes right from discovering it to the Kane bridge.  Had he learned about it before?  Did he simply deduce it from the "Property of Arkham Asylum" stamp on that back of the journal?  Given that the whole plot of the mini-series relied on that piece of information, you think Higgins would've seen fit to show us Dick discovering it (or at least have him exposit how he discovered it).  Also, how did he know the Architect was this May guy?  Did he just guess that it was a descendant of the Gates?  How did he know he lied about the theft?  This mini-series started with a lot of promise, but it really fizzled over the last few issues, and not only in terms of the mystery's reveal.  Snyder and Higgins did some interesting work in the first two issues using the story of the Gates to parallel Dick's own struggles in becoming Batman.  But, they dropped that focus for the next two issues, so when they return to it at the very end of this issue it doesn't really work.  Unfortunately, the story, with its orientation toward being read as one continuous story, ultimately proved hard to follow and, even when reading it all at once, contained too many questions to make it enjoyable.  It's a shame, because seeing Dick, Tim, Cassandra, and Damian working together was fun.  I just wish they had gotten a story befitting that fun. 

Batman Incorporated #8:  This issue is pretty cool, actually.  The plot is occasionally hard to follow, but Morrison does a fun job playing up the interaction of Bruce and Barbara while adding in some great moments ("Internet 3.0 access comes installed with free 'Batman Incorporated' anti-virus software.").  Although some people may disagree with me, I'd say the art was the main drawback of this issue.  Clark is clearly using a graphics program to create the digital effects, but at times it looks like an early computer-generated comic (paging "Iron Man:  Crash") and not something from 2011.  (The problem, of course, is that, by going this route, you've actually got to look like something from 2015, because Bruce Wayne would have something from 2015, even if the artist himself didn't.)  Looking to the rebooted version of this title, Morrison essentially promises more of the same.  Whereas other last issues this month are making an attempt (usually awkward and/or rushed) to tie up loose ends, Morrison clearly has the stature to keep on doing what he's been doing.  He seems to connect Jezebel Jet to Leviathan here, and we're promised to find out the reason why Batgirl was sent to boarding school.  The last few issues of this series have really redeemed it, bringing me past my initial dislike of this series' first arc.  I can't wait to see what happens next.

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