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Batman #690 [Review]

Long Shadows Part Three: Tripwires

Writer: Judd Winick
Penciller: Mark Bagley
Inker: Rob Hunter
Colors: Jack Purcell
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Assistant Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Cover: Tony Daniel
Publisher: DC Comics

Even though the status quo of Dick being Batman is still pretty new–not even half a year yet–this just feels right. From the character’s depiction on the cover, to the “inner voice” we’re allowed inside the issue, even though he’s not Bruce, this simply feels like Batman.

We see Dick facing Clayface and a new partner; noting places he can improve should he survive the villains’ attack. Alfred proves a considerable ally in a way I don’t recall seeing with Bruce in contemporary continuity…and yet, it works very well to me seeing his role unfold. We also see the Penguin confront Black Mask and find a new lesson taught. Two-Face’s plan seems to bear some fruit as the issue’s clifhanger gives a familiar visual but new situational dynamic for the characters.

I’m not entirely sure what to make of Clayface here, though. This is a classic Batman rogue, of course–teamed with some character I’m not familiar with. Between the various DC Crises, reboots, retcons, and Silver-Age-Returneth, I’ve lost track of what version/which Clayface this is. The way he’s depicted here, I’m put in mind of a number of things: a version of The Thing I’m not thrilled with; something belonging to the cover of the original Fantastic Four #1; and even some generic demon. I’m not really put in mind of the visual we were given in Batman: The Animated Series, nor what I think I recall from the original Hush arc back in 2003.

Additionally, I found myself taken out of the story entirely at the inclusion of the movie version of the “batarang”–the Bat-shuriken, if you will. I have no real complaint with that in and of itself–it makes sense, really–but the exactness of it caused me pause as I contemplated its inclusion as such. Specific, personal nitpicks aside…Bagley provides a good Batman visual throughout the issue. Two-Face is recognizeable, but as usual looks slightly different depending on which artist’s work we have on-hand…but really, such is the nature of the character.

On the story side of things, this is a solid issue. I’m not totally impressed in it being any great work of writing…but I’m firmly satisfied at the depiction of the characters. I’m really liking the interaction between Dick and Alfred…as we’re seeing a different interaction than what we had with Bruce and Alfred.

I really don’t care for Black Mask as a “Kingpin” figure, so the scene with the Penguin facing Black Mask’s show of power is just another point in the ongoing Batman story. The last page of the issue was a bit of a surprise–I’d forgotten about the Battle for the Cowl teaser image…and it seems that elements from that teaser are yet to really play out beyond the Battle for the Cowl minis/specials.

All in all, a solid issue…nothing terribly remarkable in and of itself, but certainly worth getting if you’re a Batman fan, a Winick fan, or just following this new season in the Bat-books.

Story: 7/10
Art: 7/10
Whole: 7/10

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Batman: Streets of Gotham #3 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

Batman: Streets of Gotham
Story: 3.5/5
Art: 3.5/5

Manhunter
Story: 2.5/5
Art: 3.5/5

Overall: 3.5/5

JSA Kingdom Come Special: The Kingdom [Review]

The Kingdom

Story: Geoff Johns & Alex Ross
Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciller: Fernando Pasarin
Inkers: Mick Gray, Jack Purcell, Norm Rapmund & Fernando Pasarin
Colorist: Hi-Fi
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Earth-2 Pin-Up: Jerry Ordway
Assistant Editor: Harvey Richards
Editor: Michael Siglain
Cover: Alex Ross (variant by Fernando Pasarin)
Publisher: DC Comics

The main thrust of this issue follows several JSAers as they react to Gog’s “gifts”–reactions both positive and negative. Damage is very much in support of Gog–who, after all, healed his face. Others point out that Gog sent Power Girl to an Earth 2 where she was hunted as a traitor, and we see Dr. Mid-Nite and Sand both dealing with the negative repercussions to their being “cured” of what had seemed on the surface to be a curse. As “war” breaks out within the JSA, it appears that Gog might finally tip his hand, as we approach “The Seventh Day” which may or may not usher in–through Gog–the end of the world.

There’s a lot going on in this issue, and a lot of characters juggled. While it’s easy enough to lose track of everyone, Johns still manages to keep things engaging by focusing on several characters and let us see their arcs unfold in context of the larger whole. What began with the apparently simple premise a year ago of “Kingdom Come Superman arrives on New Earth” has become a lengthy, enjoyable epic that has drawn me back to the Justice Society and made the team a favorite. This is a story that will likely go down as one of the definitive Justice Society runs.

The art is–for the most part–well-suited to the story. There are a few points where characters appear a bit “off” (one panel has Superman looking like he ate too many burritos too quickly)…but as a whole, no significant complaint art wise. It’s easy to follow visually, and none of the characters seem unrecognizeable.

I’ve enjoyed these specials. While a bit pricey–both cover price, and simply by their very existence at all–I think they make for a great addition to the JSA narrative, and allow for far more than we could get with just the core title alone. It is unfortunate, though, as we have important events in these that are certainly key to the overall story, such that if one wants the full story they are essential and one will have missed a great deal reading “only” the core JSA title.

There’s a double-page pinup-style spread of the Earth-2 Justice Society included–I’m not sure I “get” exactly why it’s included…but it’s a cool little “moment” of that team sitting for team photo…there’s a lot going on in that one image that says a lot about the characters without dialogue needed…it would make a great poster.

All in all, a good package that–despite the higher cover price–feels like something special and important,and is worth the money paid. You could do so much worse by way of out-of-core-title tie-in specials in a major story.

Story: 8/10
Art: 7.5/10
Whole: 8/10

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