Batgirl: Rebirth #1: OK, I'm in. I initially loved Fletcher and Stewart's run on "Batgirl," with its focus on Babs putting the Bat-family behind her and instead getting her Ph.D. and becoming Burnside's defender. But, almost immediately, they deviated from this vision. Babs seemed to have a new supporting cast and raison d'être every four or five issues. Over the course of 18 issues, we went from Jeremy, Nadimah, and Qadir to Liam to Dinah, Frankie, and Luke. We went from her trying to create a program capable of predicting crime as her Ph.D. thesis to her running a large corporation based on an idea she essentially stole. Moreover, the characters' personalities changed to fit the story the authors wanted to tell. Jeremy went from a hapless but endearing graduate student to a sullen and depressed criminal accessory. Alysia went from an activist bartender with aspirations of becoming a professional chef to running Babs' corporation. I could continue, but, like Babs, it's time to focus on the future, not the past.
Larson and Albuquerque make a great team as they re-imagine Babs as a woman backpacking through Asia on a journey of self-discovery. Albuquerque is known for his darker themes, but he adopts this comic's unique visual style, embracing a manga sensibility for the characters. (It's fitting since Babs starts her tour of Asia in Japan.) Larson makes it clear that she's trying to separate Babs from her immediate past as quickly as possible. We make a quick call to Alysia for an update, she tells Babs everything is going fine, and we're done. I'm guessing we won't hear anything more about the company or the former supporting cast for a while. It's a brutal yet needed transition.
In Japan, Babs' goal is to track down Fruit Bat, a Japanese heroine from the 1930s. Upon arrival in Japan, she discovers her roommate at the hostel is Kai, a handsome but troubled childhood friend who draws the attention of a super-villain. In other words, Larson makes us quickly forget about the past and excited about the future. Rebirth, indeed.
Batman #4: We'd been doing really well, but I have to admit I'm confused now.
First, Batman goes to see Amanda Waller after Gotham -- under Psycho-Pirate's influence -- kills 27 of her soldiers. He's able to find her after Duke adds up the serial numbers on the soldiers' dog tags and they sum to 24 -- the corresponding letter of the alphabet is "X," for Task Force X, i.e., Suicide Squad. Wait, what? Why would Waller do that? Was it a backdoor to make sure Batman found her in case something went wrong? If not, it's way too comic book-y of a solution. At any rate, we learn Hugo Strange used Gotham to kill the soldiers because Waller sent them to keep on eye on Strange.
Unfortunately for Gotham, one of the soldiers apparently survived. He took a picture of Gotham's face after he took off his mask (a rookie mistake), ran it through Task Force X's database, and then killed Gotham's parents. I get King is making Gotham even more of an analogue of Batman, but it's a little messy. First, it's unclear what the time frame is of these events are. It seems like this guy went immediately from the scene of the crime to Task Force X's base, ran the photo, and then bolted to the Clover's to kill them. Didn't he have at least some sort of debriefing? I know Waller doesn't care about people's mental states, but even she should recognize it's probably dangerous to the sole survivor of a massacre running around town. Of course, based on a comment she makes to Batman, maybe she wanted Gotham to go crazy. Did she send the guard herself? I'm not sure we're going to get that answer. It's also weird killing Gotham's parents is his first thought. Is that the standard DCU response to having a beef with someone? At any rate, Gotham kills the soldier in front of Bruce and resolves -- again, under the influence of Psycho-Pirate -- to raze Gotham before it hurts someone else again.
It's unclear to me how aware of his actions Gotham is. When Bruce confronts him over the 27 dead soldiers, he actually recognizes that the body count should've been 28. He puts two and two together and immediately flees the scene to make sure his parents are OK. (Again, though, it's weird it's everyone's first response. "Someone has a beef with me; I have to check on my folks!") However, we also see Gotham reconstructing the bridge that the mysterious agents blew up last issue, so he still believes himself to be something of a hero. I think we're supposed to believe Strange is screwing with him, making him alternate between heroic and terrible actions to maximize the psychological damage. From a narrative perspective, it's hard to follow and it somewhat dulls the emotional impact of the story. You're so busy trying to figure out which Gotham is talking that you skip past the empathy we're supposed to have for him.
Moon Knight #5: Lemire is using Marc's increasingly weak grip on reality to full effect here, as Marc is forced to cycle through his various personae -- Jake Lockley, Steve Grant, and Moon Knight himself -- as he flees the mental-institution orderlies. He eventually encounters Seth, realizing Khonshu wasn't telling him the truth when he said Seth was responsible for his plight. Seth encourages Marc to face his enemy, and it's revealed to be Khonshu himself.
It was all a test, because Khonshu wants Marc to take the final step: his body is dying, and he wants Marc to surrender his body and mind to him. Khonshu plays it as a blessing, an opportunity for Marc to be at peace from his fractured mind. Marc seems to consider it, acknowledging his mind is indeed broken. At the end, though, Marc rejects Khonshu, hurling himself from the pyramid where their confrontation occurred. We see him bleeding in the sand...and then awakening as Steve Grant in New York. He sheds a tear, happy to be there. But, Lemire isn't revealing what we're actually seeing here. Is Marc Spector no more? Is Moon Knight no more? We'll have to see.
A lot of the energy in this issue comes from the team of artists. That phrase is usually not associated with excellence, but the editors use them brilliantly to show the different personae fighting for dominance. I still like Smallwood's renderings the best, for they're gritty realism, but I also appreciate the use of art to drive home the different visions of the world Marc and his personalities have. I'm definitely excited to see where we go from here.
Nightwing #2: Although I like where Seeley is going, I can't help but feel like he's rushing to get us there. Case in point, Raptor goes from an amoral hired gun to edgy good guy over the course of just a few panels. Last issue, he was basically the second coming of R'as al Ghul, but in this issue he's suddenly Batman if he were a little closer to Chaotic Evil than Chaotic Good. That said, he does seem like a fun and intriguing new character. He shares Dick's sense of humor, even if it's a little darker; I loved his devotion to branding, marketing, and advertising as the three irresistible forces of the Universe. He's also clearly got a back story, since he also seems to be working against the Parliament in the long run, for reasons that I assume Seeley will eventually reveal.
But, again, it feels rushed. Seeley essentially demotes Dick to sidekick again, seemingly ignoring the fact we're talking about a guy who led the Titans, served as Batman, and was a super-spy. It's hard to square this circle, that a previously unknown costumed hero (villain?) could so easily school Dick. Moreover, Raptor immediately decides to trust Dick as a partner and as a confidante. It's one thing to believe that Dick will make sure you don't get killed on a mission, but it's another thing to confide in him that you're working to take down an organization like the Parliament of Owls. It seems ill advised moment of trust for a morally ambiguous mercenary. It would've been better if Raptor spent a few issues taking Dick's measure and then trusting him, as a partner first and then as a confidante.
The good news, though, is I still like where we're going. Dick never really got his hands too dirty while he was working for Spyral, but Raptor makes clear they're going to have to accept doing the Parliament's dirty work (and hurting people) in the short run to defeat them in the long run. It'll be interesting to see where Dick draws his lines in the sand tested, particularly since, as we see when he skips a date with Babs, he'll be doing it on his own again.
Spidey #9: Nope, I totally didn't tear up at the end. Nope. Not at all.
Also Read: Justice League #2; Tokyo Ghost #9