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Batman Incorporated #8 [Review]

batmaninc(vol2)008The Boy Wonder Returns

Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Chris Burnham
Art (pgs 6-9): Jason Masters
Colorist: Nathan Fairbairn
Letterer: Taylor Esposito
Associate Editor: Rickey Purdin
Group Editor: Mike Marts
Covers: Chris Burnham with Nathan Fairbairn
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

DC suckered me.

I’d read and heard rumors throughout the Death of the Family stuff going on that we might get a “big death” in the bat-family, and it seemed like most guesses were going toward either Alfred or Damian. Of course, that proved to be yet another Major Joker Story where the scary madman doesn’t actually kill any major characters.

Then I caught wind of this issue–and as the bulk of the comic fans On The Internet learned a couple days ago…this issue gives us that “big death.” Thanks to DC, the “news” was out days before the issue, SPOILING its otherwise surprise for many comic readers–myself included. I’m almost ashamed to say that the spoiler/confirmation of the “big death” prompted me to get this issue.

I recall picking up the reprint of Son of the Demon a few years back, when Morrison‘s run started–and I’m pretty sure I picked up the first couple issues, at least, of his run, not long after Infinite Crisis. With this slightly-muddled memory of being there at the beginning, I wanted to be here at the end. And…my very first Batman comics were less than a year after the death of the second Robin, Jason Todd.

So, Batman Inc. #8…that’s what this review should focus on, right?

This is my first issue of the title. Batman Inc. was not part of the first wave of New 52 titles, and so I gave it a pass when it did premiere. I don’t think I even got around to reading any issues of the original iteration preNew 52. So other than the loose concept–that Batman has agents all over the place in a more formalized structure–I come to this cold.

This issue opens with Robin (Damian…I’m still not totally used to Robin NOT being Tim Drake) flying into an ongoing battle, and connecting with Nightwing. Meanwhile, Batman is fighting against Talia al Ghul (Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter, mother of Damian). Red Robin’s part of the mix, fighting elsewhere. Nightwing and Robin have a moment–the original Robin and current Robin, on their own time as Batman & Robin. Enter an armored warrior from Talia’s end, and the two realize they’re in trouble. Nightwing falls, leaving Robin to stand against this Goliath-figure.

As Robin leaps to the attack, agents outside the fight interfere, and the boy is wounded numerous times, while calling out to his parents to stop this fight.

And for the third time…Batman finds himself with a dead Robin…perhaps the most personal of all, as Damian was his own flesh-and-blood son.

Story-wise…this is a painful issue. Most of the fighting fits, and seems like just another large-scale incident with superheroes involved in some city-wide invasion or such. But the scene of Damian’s battle is just…brutal. Despite all I know of the character–and the character certainly being “old before his time,” this is still a child…and it’s (to say the least) not at all a comfortable scene. I have no idea what Batman and Talia are fighting about this time, the details of their present issues…maybe I’ll find out via Wikipedia or listening to the inevitable podcasts covering this issue, etc.

Visually, I have no problem with the art–even the multiple artists didn’t throw me at all. Reading the issue, I just kinda sped through, taking in what’s going on, and honestly would not even have NOTICED there were multiple artists had I not specifically read the credits to list above for this review.

It was probably a mistake for me to give in and allow much weight be given to this issue. “The death scene” is only a couple pages, and easily recapped. Unlike 1988’s A Death in the Family, I’m reading only a single issue, so it’s not like this is the culmination of several issues’ reading, building to a climactic moment. This is me having a specific moment spoiled by mass media and deciding to read the issue for myself rather than simply read ABOUT it.

As a standalone issue, I’m not all that thrilled with this. I didn’t really pick up on much context of the “why” to the fighting or other context (I’m sure this’ll make more sense read in a collected volume, in-context). But sadly…I got what I paid for. I witnessed the brutal death of another Robin…a visual I’m uncomfortable with, yet get to live with today, and moving forward.

Batman Annual #1 [Review]

Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

Story: 4.5/5
Art: 4.5/5
Overall: 4.5/5

Batman #7 [Review]

Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

Story: 3/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Batman: The Dark Knight #6 [Review]

Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

Story: 2.5/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 2.5/5

Azrael: Death’s Dark Knight #3 [Review]

Quick Rating: Below Average
Story Title: Book Three: Why Ask Why?

The stage is set for things to come as the new Azrael battles Nightwing.

azraeldeathsdarkknight003Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Artist: Frazer Irving
Letters: Sal Cipriano
Asst. Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Cover: Guillem March
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue, we get the battle between Nightwing and this new Azrael. We also get some further look into the “politics” and “origins” of the sect of the Order behind this new Azrael. Following the battle, we have a bunch of jammed-together scenes that don’t feel all that organic, but put stuff into place for the coming-soon ongoing Azrael series.

The art remains stylistic–not horrible, but not particularly thrilling. It definitely sets this book off from the other Bat-books, and sets a certain tone that I can’t quite put to words.

Story-wise, I’m not impressed. If this were in itself the third issue of an already-ongoing series, I might feel differently about it. As-is, I feel slightly hoodwinked, jumping on for a 3-issue mini that I thought would tie closely to Battle for the Cowl. What I got is something that is loosely tied to that story and an ending that doesn’t affect that story and simply tells me to follow more of this story in a new Azrael book.

This does definitely establish that there is a new Azrael and he’s not being abandoned after this brief story; if you’re interested in the concept, this isn’t a bad series…just look at this as a “pilot” and the rest of the series will pick up soon.

If you’ve not already picked up the first couple issues, this is not worth getting, and at this point, you may as well wait for a collected volume.

Ratings:

Story: 2/5
Art: 2/5
Overall: 2/5

Azrael: Death’s Dark Knight #2 [Review]

Quick Rating: Decent but not wonderful
Story Title: Book Two: Give and Take

The new Azrael’s costume is in demand…

azraeldeathsdarkknight002Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Artist: Frazer Irving
Letters: Sal Cipriano
Asst. Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Cover: Guillem March
Publisher: DC Comics

After so looking forward to this book…and generally being a fan of Nicieza‘s work, this issue leaves me quite disappointed. Especially for the fact that I had to practically re-read the thing to try to tell what exactly is going on–whatever larger plot, I’m apparently not picking up on it all that much.

The new Azrael’s costume is an old suit of armor, apparently cursed…and very much in demand, whether or not the man in the suit likes it…and the story seems to move around that and how the person wearing the suit is affected.

This issue’s art in and of itself is not bad–it’s nothing spectacular, but at the same time it is far from dissatisfying. No specific complaints on this aspect of the book.

Story-wise, I can’t help but wonder if I’m having trouble following things because of not being steeped in Azrael’s story. I know the original character from the Knightfall stuff, and read a couple other issues here or there–the Gotham Earthquake, stuff during No Man’s Land, as well as the final issue. Other than playing with some small toys placed in the larger Batman sandbox, this feels quite irrelevant to the Battle for the Cowl, and at a mere 3 issues–of which I’ve now read 2–I don’t know how the ending’s going to be at all satisfying…this almost needs to be 4 or more issues.

I dislike blatantly decompressed stories–those stretched several issues beyond what they need to be. This issue seems almost the opposite–I feel like we’re at best just starting to get an idea of what’s going on, and already the next issue is supposed to be the ending of the story.

I don’t particularly recommend this issue in itself. If you can snag it with the first issue and the third issue when that comes out, I imagine it might make for a decent one-sitting read. And perhaps the next/final issue will shed more light on things and make character more distinctive and memorable.

As-is, though, this issue–even with its cliffhanger–doesn’t even excite me enough to have me looking forward to that next issue.

Unless you’re coming to the Battle for the Cowl with a completist mentality, I think it’s safe to say you could avoid this book without really missing out on anything.

Ratings:

Story: 2/5
Art: 3/5
Overall: 2/5

Azrael: Death’s Dark Knight #1 [Review]

Quick Rating: Not bad
Story Title: Simple Sacrifices

A new Azrael is chosen and sent forth as Gotham struggles for lack of a Batman.

azraeldeathsdarkknight001Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Artist: Frazer Irving
Letters: Sal Cipriano
Asst. Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Cover: Guillem March
Publisher: DC Comics

It’s been awhile, but this is one book I was interested in for the character, regardless of writer or artist. It actually reminded me of my earliest days in following comics, back before I really noticed specific writers or artists and simply read and enjoyed comics for the specific characters.

We open on a new Azrael beheading a criminal (in a scene that I couldn’t help but think to myself “In the end, there can be only one…”). We then move behind the scenes to a faction of the Order of St. Dumas that is apparently not the same as that which set Jean-Paul Valley into things back in Sword of Azrael and beyond. These folks realize they need another Azrael, and so recruit someone who fits their present “requirements” for the role. We see this character into action as the new Azrael, and into a somewhat counter-intuitive cliffhanger.

I’m not terribly impressed with the art…it’s not to say it’s bad or anything, but there’s something to the style that just comes off kinda strange to me, and Nightwing in particular looked rather “off” in proportion/shape as depicted in here. Otherwise, the style definitely sets this book apart giving it its own look/feel, which does contribute a bit to the story as it helps show that this is definitely not an Azrael we’ve already seen.

The story itself also isn’t all that impressive to me, especially as something that’s only gonna run for three issues. I don’t see how there’ll be room to really see enough to get to know the character(s) in this book prior to the conclusion of the third issue, and that takes me outta things a bit. (At the same time, if this were an ongoing book or had several more issues, I think I’d be pretty much satisfied as far as first issues go). Nicieza builds on elements introduced in Morrison‘s run on Batman, which is cool–showing that this fits in existing continuity and isn’t being showhorned in.

Since we’re only one issue in here and have only one issue of Battle for the Cowl out so far, I’m not sure exactly where this series is going to fit–how tightly this will play into the main story. At the same time, there’s plenty of potential as we get introduced to this character who could be just the latest to hang onto the role before passing it along.

If you’re a fan of the Azrael concept and don’t mind reading a character that is NOT Jean-Paul Valley, or you’re just following the entirety of the Battle for the Cowl “event,” this’ll certainly be worth your while.

Ratings:

Story: 3/5
Art: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

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