Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Batman #1:  Not surprisingly, Snyder does great work here.  First, we get a pretty soft reboot.  Unlike "Detective Comics," this issue essentially feels like issue #714.  The only difference that really leapt off the page for me (other than, obviously, Bruce now being the sole Batman of Gotham) was that everyone appears younger.  Bruce appears to be roughly Dick's age, Dick appears to be roughly Tim's age, etc.  In theory, the reboot didn't change the time frame of the DC Universe, so it could've just been the way Capullo drew them.  But, we saw something similar in "Brand New Day" in "Amazing Spider-Man," where no one, in theory, was de-aged, but, in practice, everyone looked and acted younger.  (Aunt May probably lost a good 20 years.)  I'll be looking for clues in the upcoming issues to see whether or not DC is going for something similar here.

Other than that, though, Snyder seems to do everything he can to assure us everything is more or less business as usual in the Bat-Universe, with a few tweaks and nips here and there.  We get a snarky Damian and astute Tim greeting Bruce and Dick, a Jim Gordon still shocked by the way the city corrupts even the good, and a cranky Bullock working with Bats because he wants to solve a crime, not because he's particularly happy about it.  (I was a little surprised that Alfred got the "highest" rating for access level, but, when you think about it, it is totally true.)  Snyder also gives us the scene in the Wayne Manor hallway with the four guys to stress that these relationships, which are the bedrock of the series, haven't changed.

Of course, he then raises the question that maybe, in fact, they have changed with the last page of the issue.  The only problem, though, is that I don't buy, for a minute, that Dick is trying to kill Bruce.  I mean, unless they're going to cancel "Nightwing" after five issues because Dick goes to jail, I think it's unlikely it's him.  I think Snyder knows that everyone would see through that, so I'm confused why he would set up a dramatic reveal that isn't so dramatic once you think about it for 30 seconds.  Moreover, I'm pretty skeptical of the way the clue was delivered.  I really don't buy that the victim of the crime we see in this issue would've known he was going to die on a specific day, known when the assassin was planning on killing Wayne, and used paint thinner to spell out the mystery.  Um, why not just call the cops?  Or, better yet, Wayne?  Clearly something else is happening, and I trust Snyder to get us there in a truly spectacular way.  But, he loses some points for setting up a dramatic cliff-hanger that isn't all that dramatic and an overly complicated crime scene that really defies belief.  But, I'm still intrigued by who the killer really is and why s/he might be gunning for Bruce.  (I'm guessing, if he's anything like other mayors, candidate March might somehow be involved.)  We shall see.

On the whole, though, I enjoyed the issue.  Dick posing as the Joker in Arkham was awesome.  I had no idea where Snyder was going with the Batman/Joker team-up, and I'm glad he left us hanging for a few pages.  I also liked the interaction between Bruce and Dick in the Batcave.  First, we see Bruce gruffly tell Dick not to bother him while he's working, which Dick questions, forcing Bruce to reveal what he's doing.  Second, we see Dick seeking some sort of approval for his "performance," which Bruce begrudgingly gives him, and Bruce referring to Dick's time in Arkham as a sort of vacation, which Dick thinks is just stereotypical Bruce.  In just those few panels, Snyder captures the warmth and tension of their relationship.  Bruce acts distant, Dick uses humor (and directness) to provoke him, and they meet somewhere in the middle.  I can't wait to see Snyder develop it further.  To that point, I'm also glad we see Dick (and Damian and Tim) in this issue.  Snyder seems to be implying that he's not going to write Bruce as a loner, given that he uses Dick as a colleague here.  I hope that's true, because, again, it's the relationships between them all that keep me buying these books every month.

Looking ahead, despite some reservations about the aforementioned negatives, Snyder does what he needed to do in this issue, laying out a really solid foundation for the coming stories.  By using Bruce's speech about the question "Gotham is...?" as a frame for the story -- and contrasting the hopeful rhetoric Bruce delivers at the speech with the brutal images Batman encounters on the streets -- Snyder is continuing the work he did on "Detective Comics," portraying a complicated and dark Gotham City that defies categorization and infects everyone.  We also see a more high-tech Bruce than we've seen before, with his fancy contact lenses, the new E.M.P. mask, the holographic Gotham map, etc.  It's going to take Snyder a few issues to get his groove and get over the forced reboot-related exposition, but I'm really excited by what he does with Bruce Wayne, given what he previously did with Dick Grayson. 

Nightwing #1:  OK, so, Higgins dispatches with the most important question here on the first page, confirming that Dick spent the last year acting as Batman while "Bruce Wayne was...away."  With that, Higgins proceeds to give us essentially a coda to Scott Snyder's run on "Detective Comics," having Dick ruminate on the theme that Snyder used throughout the run, of how Gotham changed him (for the better and the worse).  Higgins has a good ear for Dick's internal monologue, giving us a fairly loose narration with a lot of charm and wit.  I liked how Higgins isn't just ignoring the year Dick spent as Batman, instead using it as the centerpiece of the issue to show that Dick is more confident than he used to be.  I also thought the decision to make the first issue involve Haley's Circus was a good one, giving us a rumination on Dick's past that we probably need for new readers before we can move down different avenues.  I have three small complaints, though.  One, I think Higgins went a little overboard on the narration, veering too often into the "tell instead of show" category.  Second, I think Dick is a little TOO confident here at time, when he's talking about how awesome he is.  Higgins is setting up Dick for a fall, but Dick has been playing this game WAY too long to be as sure of himself (and his infallibility) as he is depicted here.  Finally, if the new villain winds up being Marc, I'm warning you right now be prepared for some serious eye-rolling.  I'm not sure if we're supposed to think it's him or the person who got off the bus and killed the two muggers.  That said, it seems that this issue might tie into the events of "Batman" #1, with Dick Grayson being "the fiercest killer in all of Gotham" despite apparently not knowing he is.  I was a little concerned when I saw Higgins on the title, since I found "Batman:  Gates of Gotham" to be pretty hit or miss.  But, it's a solid start, and I'm anxious to see where Higgins goes with it. 

Red Hood and the Outlaws #1:  YES!  This book is the book of the relaunch for me, the book that'll hopefully make it all worthwhile.  In just one issue, Lobdell and Rocafort essentially ditch all the annoying aspects of the various versions of Jason Todd (the emotionless attitude, the red hair) and keep all the great ones (the innate sexiness, the super badassness).  Awesome.  I was OK with the last version of Jason Todd that Judd Winick gave us in "Batman and Robin," but I have to say I like this one all the better.

First, I originally didn't mind the red hair, because it gave us a way to differentiate Jason from all the other brooding, dark-haired boys in Gotham.  But, Rocafort actually manages to do that here on his own.  I can't quite put my finger on it, but he draws Jason in a way that makes him more than just the carbon copy of Dick Grayson he's always been.  Second, Lobdell hints that Jason has made his peace with the Bats.  First, most obviously, he's wearing a bat emblem on his chest, clearly signifying at least his partial return to the fold.  Winick had actually done some work in that direction in his arc in "Batman and Robin," though Jason obviously still carried a lot of anger in that arc.  But, here, the anger seems to be a thing of the past.  I loved when he tells Roy that everyone in Gotham deserves one another.  You get the sense that Jason realized that it was Gotham that made him crazy (Scotty Snyder would be totally down with that assessment) and the fresh air is doing him good.  It's not like he cried on Robin Williams' couch for a few hours; you can tell the anger is still there, but he's dealt with it.  (Yes, I want him to hug out his problems with Bruce and Dick, but I accept the fact I'm going to have to wait for that.)  I don't know how Lobdell conveyed all that in one issue, but he did.  Third, along those lines, Jason is killing now more because he's a soldier than because he's a sociopath.  When authors took their time with him, Jason always had an understandable position, that certain bad guys need to be killed.  The problem was that he maybe enjoyed doing it too much to be a good guy.  Here, Lobdell seems to put him more fully back on this sane side of killing (such as it is.)  I love that.  Finally, I think this issue had such an impact on me because we actually see Jason have emotions (and not just rage).  He obviously feels some connection to Essence, and he exhibits real remorse over Ducra's death.  Obviously, we'll find out more in the months to come, but just those signs of emotions on his part are a sign that maybe we've got back a workable Jason Todd.

This book, though, isn't all about Jason.  I know nothing about Roy, but he's the perfect foil for Jason.  They had some really great moments, the best possibly being the "Too far?"/"Too far." thought-bubble conversation as they were fleeing the mercenaries.  I love a good redemption story, and these two boys could definitely use some redemption (and a friend).  The addition of Starfire gave this whole issue the feel of "Y Tu Mamá También," with two horny guys on a road trip with a girl who didn't exactly care.  It's a fun dynamic, though Lobdell has to be careful not just to make Starfire into some sort of straight, adolescent-boy, wish-fulfillment device.

This issue could be one of the issues of the year for me.  It combines so much and brings such coherence to Jason Todd, a coherence I don't know if we've ever seen, that I can't WAIT for next month.  I'm going to stop now so I can read it again!

Teen Titans #1:  If "Red Hood and the Outlaws" was my favorite issue of the reboot, this issue is #2.  Awesomeness.  I'm just all about Lobdell, apparently.  Just like he "gets" Jason Todd in the aforementioned title, I feel like he really gets Tim here as well.  Again, we're not talking about a hard reboot here when it comes to Tim.  I could see all the events of "Red Robin" (except, obviously, the Teen Titans cross-over arc) having more or less happened the way they were depicted.  Tim considered that time to be his efforts at working in the shadows, which he mentions here.  I like the idea that it's this N.O.W.H.E.R.E. organization that's forcing him to come into the open.  Giving the Titans a really clear villain to battle, at least for the first few issues, is a great idea, particularly becasue it involves teenagers rebelling against the Man, which go together like chocolate and peanut butter.  The reboots of Cassie and Conner are obviously more pronounced.  We saw that in the latter case in "Superboy," another Lobdell effort I enjoyed.  But, it's the first time I've seen the "new" Cassie, and I have to say I really dug her new edge.  I picked up a few "Teen Titans" issues last year, but they were so incredibly maudlin (partly due to the Cassie/Conner drama) that I dropped the title.  I'm excited about this one.  Titans Together!  (OK, maybe they could get a better slogan in the reboot, too...)

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