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Robin #183 [Review]

Last Rites: Robin Dies at Dawn!

Storytellers: Fabian Nicieza & Freddie Williams II
Letters: Sal Cipriano
Colors: Guy Major
Assistant Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Cover: Freddie Williams II
Publisher: DC Comics

Robin’s ally on the GCPD receives a note suggesting that at dawn, Robin will die. It is quickly determined that it is from Lady Shiva–one of THE most dangerous individuals in the world (and the woman against whom Tim Drake proved his mettle at the beginning of his career, showing that he had what it takes to BE Robin). As he faces his own “final night,” Tim/Robin touches base with–or tries to–with some key individuals in his life. Toward the story’s end, having prepared himself for what he is to face, Robin once again goes up against Shiva in mortal combat.

The art for this books is pretty good. I’m not sure if the artist’s style has changed or if I’m thinking of a different artist, but I like this far better than I liked the artwork on this title pre-One Year Later. I still find it sorta strange seeing Robin’s black-and-red costume after so many years of the other; ditto Tim’s longer hair. But really, both aspects of the visual show growth and change in the character–it’s great to be able to see that even as the character has matured, the visuals have matured to go with the overall maturation.

I’ve been following this title rather sporatically lately–an issue here, an issue there, so I can’t speak to where this plays in terms of the overall continuity. The story I found here was rather fitting, though, for a final issue–we got to see Tim interact with a number of characters who I’m familiar with (and one I think I am, but not sure), sorta touching base with them on this possible final night, before he steps up to face his responsibilities. I’m not sure how many issues now (between the actual RIP tie-ins and the Last Rites semi-arc) this title has featured Robin solo withOUT Batman. It’s rather like the series’ beginnings during the Knightfall arc when Jean-Paul kicked Robin out of the Cave to fend for himself. Bruce was gone then, and Bruce is gone now…but the details and characters are different.

Though pretty well done, this does feel a bit rushed–and we know Tim’s part of the Battle for the Cowl–so this basically just touches on stuff, offers some sentimentality, but then we’re going to follow the character to another writer and possibly huge status quo changes.

Origins & Omens
Story: Fabin Nicieza
Art & Colors: Freddie Williams II
Letters: Sal Cipriano
Ass’t Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts

This backup–like the “main story”–touches on stuff going all the way back to the earliest days of Tim Drake–I believe back to even before his very first MINI-series. We see him fighting the man who killed his mother, and facing a choice between vengeance and justice–a choice that apparently is going to have some definite impact on the future of this character.

The art’s decent, but not wonderful–I don’t like it nearly as well as I liked the art in the main story. On the whole I could’ve really done without this backup (or enjoyed a text/prose page or journal entry from Tim in its place).

All in all, as final issues go, this isn’t the best, but certainly isn’t the worst. As a standard comic with no fancy covers or extra pages/higher price and such–that just happens to be the last for this title–it’s fitting…especially since we know it’s not the end of the starring character.

Recommended mainly for regular readers of the most recent stuff…but as a lapsed reader who read all 3 original minis and then followed the first 120-some issues of this title…it’s also worth while to see where Robin’s wound up.

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

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Batman #685 [Review]

Catspaw

Writer: Paul Dini
Penciller: Dustin Nguyen
Inker: Derek Fridolfs
Colors: Guy Major
Letters: John J. Hill
Asst. Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Cover: Alex Ross
Publisher: DC Comics

Having thrown a wrench into Hush’s plans, Catwoman gains some small measure of revenge on the man who so horribly wronged her recently. However, in her own machinations she has need of the man who would impersonate Bruce Wayne. After explaining to Hush what role he’ll play, we see the plan set in motion, but with a nice twist at the end that is very fitting.

Dini’s story continues here, in the conclusion of another two-parter begun in Detective and concluded in Batman. This filler has much more significance, though, while also nicely playing with the Faces of Evil theme, and in a post-Batman Batman world. Nothing bad to say about the writing.

I’m not a huge fan of Nguyen’s style on the art, but it works here, and has a good consistency to it. It doesn’t blow me away, but it fits with the story and isn’t bad.

All in all, a solid issue that seems to set the stage for Hush’s status quo of present.

Worthwhile, but probably not essential.

Story: 8/10
Art: 7/10
Whole: 7.5/10

Detective Comics #852 [Review]

Reconstruction

Writer: Paul Dini
Penciller: Dustin Nguyen
Inker: Derek Fridolfs
Colors: John Kalisz
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Asst. Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Cover: Andrew Robinson
Publisher: DC Comics

As far as I can tell, this issue opens shortly after Heart of Hush (and handily spoils said story, which I have not yet read). Thomas Elliot has gone from top of the world to having nothing, thanks to miscalculations in his last attack on Batman/Bruce/Catwoman. This issue follows him from being defeated and suicidal on to several incidents where he is able to successfully impersonate Bruce Wayne. By doing so he begins to reconstruct his power and wealth while regaining confidence in his ability to get revenge. The issue’s end plays a bit in the metatextual realm–I for one was put in mind of Iron Man and how amusing this could be to play on that character–and ends on a nice little moment that I’m sure would mean so much more if I’d read Heart of Hush.

The art on this issue is pretty good. I recall Nguyen’s art from a stint he had on Batman back in ’04 or so; I think I like this current work better than that, though. Nguyen’s art seems to work well with this story, and I have nothing worthwhile to complain about with it.

The story itself works well despite the cliched rags-to-riches bit. Even so, it builds on established continuity and continues to build on the Thomas Elliot character in a believeable way, keeping the character’s story moving forward. The character is being developed in a way that–to make a comparison–feels much more organic and reasonable than what’s been done with Jason Todd. For that I certainly have to give Dini points.

It’s been a couple months now since Batman: RIP wrapped up, and I wish I’d had a clearer map/checklist of what the Bat titles were going to do for these last few months as they’ve been all over the place with fill in stories and whatnot. This is another story that looks to be the same creative team with the story appearing in both Detective and Batman. With a story like this, though…I could handle reading Dini’s stuff in both Bat-books and be quite satisfied.

Story: 8.5/10
Art: 7/10
Whole: 8/10

Batman #684 [Review]

Batman: Last Rites – Last Days of Gotham part 2 of 2

Writer: Denny O’Neil
Art: Guillem March
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Assistant Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Covers: Guillem March & Tony Daniel
Publisher: DC Comics

Nightwing finds himself in need of rescuing, followed by guilt at having been rescued. A conversation with Alfred gets him back into fighting shape, and he heads out to do what he’s gotta do. Meanwhile, the other players in the story are busy–looking over the city, beating heads in (doing so in another’s name), and dealing with the “order” side of things. The expected fight happens, and a number of characters ponder what life’s handed them.

This is a bit of a vague summary. Some stuff in the story feels a bit vague to me–specifically the new characters with ties going back to the Gotham quake. Names did not stand out to me at all, and without going back and re-reading just to look for a name, I don’t recall ’em.

However, I did like this chapter much moreso than the first–not sure what made this so different, unless it just played better having already gotten the foundational stuff outta the way with the Detective Comics chapter of this.

The story plays nicely with continuity–drawing from stuff going back over a decade, while being planted in the midst of current/contemporary continuity, which is a definite strength in my eyes. I’d almost be interested in seeing a longer story by O’Neil, though I don’t think the current continuity’s climate would work well for that.

The art is not bad, though not my ideal choice for a Batman-related story. There’s something about this art that reminds me of the art in Superman right now–though I prefer this to the Superman art.

All in all, a solid issue for a fill-in arc (which if this is not a fill-in, it sure feels like one). If you picked up Detective 851 with the firstd chapter, this is worth nabbing to get the 2nd half of the story. I’m not sure how/where this’ll be collected (if it is) down the line; definitely beats trying to track down a 6-parter. I do wish DC would adopt some system of recounting what’s come before. I also wish they’d quit GLUING these Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe ads in–I wanna rip ’em out, but because of the glue cannot without ripping out actual story pages.

Story: 8/10
Art: 7/10
Whole: 7.5/10

Batman #683 [Review]

Batman: What the Butler Saw

Writer: Grant Morrison
Penciller: Lee Garbett
Inker: Trevor Scott
Colorist: Guy Major
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Asst. Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Cover: Alex Ross (variant by Tony Daniel)
Publisher: DC Comics

DC could really benefit from a “previously” page. I know I say that quite a bit, but it’s something that–especially in the contemporary written-for-the-collection environment–just seems so very practical that I still don’t quite “get” why they haven’t followed Marvel’s example in this.

This issue resumes the journey to certain points throughout the history of Batman as the imprisoned Batman struggles against his Apokaliptian foes. As the struggle climaxes, we see what’s been happening in this post-RIP story–and also get clarification as to what DID happen at the end of RIP.

While I’m not that familiar with Garbett’s art–nor is he Tony Daniel–the art works here, and being the same as the previous issue feels less a departure than continuation with the “new” or “different” art team’s style. This isn’t the greatest art I’ve ever seen, but it is far better than a lot of what can be found in certain other comics.

Having had a couple weeks to cool after the disappointment of RIP’s conclusion, this feels slightly less the trainwreck I declared the previous issue, though this issue holds a similar disappointment as we now have to follow Batman into Final Crisis for his story (and presumably for whatever has led to the RIP arcs in Robin and Nightwing as well as the upcoming Battle for the Cowl and whatnot).

The writing is also slightly less frustrating here–where the previous issue was choppy and lacked context, this issue actually reveals what is going on, which provides perfect context for the choppiness, and shows that Morrison is perfectly able to deliver short stories with payoff instead of dragging stuff across numerous issues.

I wouldn’t recommend this as a jump-on point, though if you’re following Final Crisis and want more of what happen(s/ed) to Batman after that early issue he was taken off the board in, this arc’s for you–it is, after all, marked with “Final Crisis” on its cover.

The cover is another fine image from Alex Ross…and another that I feel is quite poster-worthy.

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

Detective Comics #851 [Review]

Batman: Last Rites – Last Days of Gotham part 1 of 2

Writer: Denny O’Neil
Art: Guillem March
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Assistant Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Covers: Guillem March & Tony Daniel
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue seems to introduce a new character–at the least, I am unfamiliar with this character, not having read this title much in a lotta years. This character has elements dating back to the Gotham Earthquake (Batman: Cataclysm), and also has Two Face back in action, even as a doppleganger apparently is running around using his name. As the last guy to really deal with Two Face and with Bruce missing, Nightwing answers the call of duty and goes into action.

There’s something to the art in this issue that makes me think it’s got some manga influence, as the visual style puts me in mind both of that and some sort of adaptation of some cartoon I can’t think of. The art’s far from bad, though it being a bit stylized turns me off to it somewhat. Characters that I believe are intended to be recognizeable are, while other characters seem to look as they should based on what I get from the story’s context.

The story itself is something I really wanted to like, given this brief return by Denny O’Neil. Unfortunately, this issue just didn’t work for me, and I found myself having to force myself to read each page instead of skimming over to get to more interesting stuff. This feels like a fill-in; whether it is or not I don’t pretend to know; though the fact that it’s to be continued in an upcoming issue of Batman is rather telling. If you’re a longtime fan of O’Neil and steeped in Bat-lore from around the Cataclysm stuff and are a fan of Two Face, you’ll probably enjoy this. I came in as someone fresh off Batman: RIP interested in seeing the impact the absence of Batman himself has on everyone, and just was not engaged by the story.

All in all, a fairly disappointing issue for me, though I hope I’ve contextualized that above. The cover is what I must credit with drawing me in, combined with realizing O’Neil was penning the story–this cover image would make a great poster, I think.

Story: 7/10
Art: 6/10
Whole: 6.5/10

Batman #682 [Review]

Batman: The Butler Did It

Writer: Grant Morrison
Penciller: Lee Garbett
Inker: Trevor Scott
Colorist: Guy Major
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Asst. Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Cover: Alex Ross (variant by Tony Daniel)
Publisher: DC Comics

There’s not much to this issue, it seems. Bruce and Alfred have a conversation about his having chosen to become “a bat” and how events throughout his career have shaped who/what he is. We’re treated to images from throughout the Batman’s history, as if every Batman comic you’ve ever read has a place in the current Batman’s life.

The art by Garbett isn’t bad–it’s certainly a depature from the RIP arc, but it works well enough here. I don’t recognize the name, so am not sure if I’ve seen this artist’s work elsewhere, but in this issue, I have no problem with it in and of itself.

Story-wise, I feel rather lost and disappointed. RIP was vastly over-hyped, and where I expected some brilliant swerve that would serve to explain 2+ years’ worth of Batman stories in a satisfactory manner, I found the closing of that story anti-climactic. And a mere ONE week later to have the next issue and have no reference to RIP or any “death” of Batman is a letdown in itself. That I can hardly follow this issue’s narrative–I have read Batman for 19 1/2 years, comics for 20 years, and have delved even further back in my reading through the years–and this issue feels choppy and “trippy.” Is Bruce hallucinating? Is that what RIP was? Is this what he saw while drugged out by the Black Glove? Or is this Alfred’s recollection of events? If so, WHEN was this? Is this before or after RIP? Is someone musing to themselves, “talking” to Bruce, or is Bruce actually there?

Honestly, I’d be hard-pressed to recommend this issue. I almost feel suckered–after all, perhaps it’s important since it was rushed out THE VERY FIRST WEEK after RIP ended. If you’ve actually enjoyed the ending of RIP, perhaps you’ll enjoy this–perhaps you actualy “get” Mr. Morrison’s style here.

As for me…this is a trainwreck. I don’t want to look, but some part of me can’t help but look, and grouse at what I wind up seeing.

Story: 5/10
Art: 7/10
Whole: 6/10

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