I came to a realization this month in reading the core Batman title. It’s a strange realization for me, but it’s a profound shift in my mental image of Batman.
I’ll say first off, before I get into our reviews for the month, that Batman is not my favorite character. Depending on the stories being told at the moment, that would be either Spider-Man or Superman. Hell, Batman isn’t even in my top five favorites- that would be Spidey, Supes, Captain America, Flash and Nightwing. But Tom King’s run on Batman has done something for me that I’ve never experienced my entire comics-reading lifetime.
I am anxiously awaiting every issue of Batman. Not only that, I’m excited to open every issue. Hell, sometimes it’s the first book I open up. I’m going to get into it a little more I recap King’s most recent issues, but he’s really just made me love the character even more. For the first time in my life, Batman is my favorite series, and that’s awesome.
Way to go Mr. King. Now please don’t leave the series any time soon.
Batman #23-24: Now getting into the books themselves a little bit, we come to two single issues written by King. Nine months ago, I wrote about how I loved the Rebirth one-shot King wrote with Scott Snyder, then I didn’t feel the first arc, but then #6, another stand-alone one-shot story, hooked me on King’s take on Batman. More and more that appears to be King’s strength. While I enjoyed I am Suicide and I am Bane, the interludes in between were really where King’s work shone. Rooftops was a superb story, and even though it was packaged as a two-parter, it was really two closely connected stories. Even the first part of the Button, even though it was part of a four-part story, it really stood alone as a fight between Batman and the Reverse Flash.
Now king and his artistic collaborators give us what are really the best issues of King’s run so far. In “The Brave and the Mold” (I LOVE that title), Batman teams with Swamp Thing to stop a murderer. In “Every Epilogue is a Prelude” King sums up his run so far, and sets up the future of the title.
The Brave and the Mold is a Batman story in the vein of classic Alan Moore one-shot stories. A very standard Batman trope- Batman has to team with a fellow hero to solve a crime- is twisted and deconstructed, and given a horrifying lens to be viewed though. Here, the victim is Alex Holland’s father (whom he barely knew until his adult life), and Alec is measured and calm, until he’s face to face with the killer. Under Mitch Gerard’s pencil, it’s quiet and contemplative, until the terrifying and heartbreaking final pages. It’s beautiful, and I can’t wait until we’re getting King and Gerard together every month again on Mister Miracle. King also uses Holland to reflect on a common theme from his run- Batman’s relationship to his parents. It’s a fantastic issue, and just brilliant comics by two great creators.
In Batman #24, we see two interactions. In the daylight, Batman and Gotham Girl reflect on her new lease on life, while Batman comes to several realizations about himself. Meanwhile, later than night but shown concurrently with the daylight pages, Batman goes on a pursuit of Catwoman, ending in the most talked about two words in comics since Captain America said “Hail Hydra”- Batman says “Marry me.” King uses his entire run to date to show how much Batman has down in 24 issues. I don’t know a single run that has made so much believable change to the Dark Knight prior to this, and when taken as a whole, IT WORKS. It doesn’t feel like a stunt. King, Clay Mann and David Finch sell every moment of it, and as a creative whole it’s great.
This is the ideal Batman, and you should be reading it.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Detective Comics #957-958: What Tom King has been doing with Batman himself, I really think James Tynion has been doing with the larger Bat-family in Detective. Although the team has changed quite a bit since the initial arc of Tynion’s run, every character he has written is still in play within the story. It’s a complicated but absolutely engaging web he’s woven.
In #957, with guest co-writer Christopher Sebela and guest artist Carmen Carnero tell the story of Spoiler, whose mission is now redirected at the capes of Gotham. She uses various trick in her arsenal to take down Wrath (an underappreciated Bat-villain) when he takes over a police station. In the closing pages she reveals her motives, by shining the spotlight on the police and allowing them to receive the credit.
Tynion and Sebela tell a great story here. Spoiler has been written as barely competent in the past, yet here she shows all the skill her training with the Bat-family has given her. The only downside is that she comes off as almost TOO competent. Carnero does a great job here. I’d love to see her back in Gotham again soon.
In #958, the Order of St. Dumas rears its ugly head, as Tynion has been threatening for months. One of Jean-Paul Valley’s former associates arrives in Gotham, bleeding and asking for help. This is a quite a bit slower issue, as it’s largely set-up and exposition, but that’s not to say it’s not a fascinating read. It sets up a great threat, reintroduces Azrael’s history, and brings in one of the most exciting allies the book has used so far, which I won’t spoil here. Alvaro Martinez has grown a lot as a penciller since he started on the book. He doesn’t waste a single panel, and does some great things with body language (at one point Jean-Paul removes his glasses and rubs the bridge of his nose- a great touch!). Brad Anderson continues to be a great compliment to the artists with his colors. His color work in the flashback sequences is very painterly, and adds so much depth.
If you’re a Bat-family fan, this is a series you have to read.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Super Sons #4: Jon Kent and Damian Wayne are comic book peanut butter and chocolate. Since they first teamed up earlier this year in the pages of Superman, I knew this series was going to be something special. And I’m right.
Kid Amazo has captured Jon and Damian, and the two have to fight their way free while trying to keep their bickering from getting in the way. With the help of Lex Luthor and Sara, the Amazo-powered sister of the villain, they are able to defeat Kid Amazo and save the day.
Peter Tomasi has done more for both of these characters’ development than anyone else, so he has their voices down perfectly. It’s only natural that they won’t get along as well. It’s just perfectly written. Jorge Jimenez’s kinetic art style is a great companion to the script. Jimenez is drawing kids who look like kids (not short adults), and the action is stylized just enough to make it feel incredibly animated.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nightwing #21: Dick Grayson is one the deepest characters in the DC Universe. He has ties to the entire universe, from his obvious connections to Batman, to his friendship with Superman inspiring his current identity, to his time with the Titans. Thanks to that, one of my favorite types of Nightwing stories is a story that takes advantage of his connections. This issue is a great example of that, in a one-shot team up with Nightwing and the Wally West Flash.
Michael McMillan and Christian Duce are both from the DC Talent Workshop, and they do a great job here with this issue. Dick and Wally go out on the town, and end up crossing paths with a time-manipulating villain. It’s a fun and simple plot, but it’s fleshed out with a lot of great character work. McMillan definitely knows each character’s history, and plays up that strength. In fact, the fight, while fun, was pretty unmemorable. Duce’s art is solid throughout, but towards the end of the issue it becomes a bit looser and less detailed.
Overall a fun issue, especially for fans of the central duo in the plot.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #11: There’s been a lot of backlash towards Gus, the replacement Oracle introduced at the beginning of this series. Well, in this issue, it all comes crashing down for Gus as he reveals who he was working for and everything he did to both protect and damage the Birds.
The Bensons tell a fun story, setting up Gus as someone in over their head, while not acquitting him of some of the weird, creepy or plain wrong things he’s done. They also add an interesting layer to him by making him bipolar. The Birds meanwhile drive the plot, with Babs in particular coming through the strongest.
Roge Antonio draws the issue as a crime thriller, with lots of motion and action, even in more quiet panels. Similar with Martinez in Detective, he does some great body language as well. Allen Passalaqua is a great companion on the colors, adding some great lighting effects, and really setting the mood. All of this builds into a great last page reveal. It’s worth checking out.
Rating: 7 out 10
Tony Thornley is a Mormon geek dad, blogger, Spider-Man and Superman aficionado, amateur novelist and all around awesome guy. He was born and raised in Utah and has been reading comics since age five. His first comic series was GI Joe and he was doomed from there. You can follow him on Twitter @brawl2099.