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Batman and Robin Eternal #1 [Review]

batmanandrobineternal001Story: James Tynion IV & Scott Snyder
Script: James Tynion IV
Pencils: Tony Daniel
Inks: Sandu Florea
Colors: Tomeu Morey
Letters: Tom Napolitano
Cover: Tony Daniel, Sandu Florea, Tomeu Morey
Asst. Editor: Dave Wielgosz
Editor: Chris Conro
Group Editor: Mark Doyle
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: December 2015
Cover Price: $3.99

Against otherwise better judgment, I decided to check this out. I’m sure it had plenty to do with being a #1–a chance to “check it out” from the start, before things get deep. Also that I got the impression the series is due to focus heavily on the previous Robins–Dick, Jason, and Tim–which is something I’m quite interested in (particularly Dick and Tim). I also have the hope of it being a lengthy but mostly contained story, and while I’m really not thrilled at the prospect of a WEEKLY $4 book, since it’s not like I’m really following anything else from DC and Marvel at the moment, I might be able to tolerate a weekly dose at the higher price.

We open with a flashback, then jump to the ‘present’ with Red Robin, Grayson, and Red Hood pursuing someone; a bit of an action sequence. Scene skips abound as we get a moment with the new Batman interacting with would-be Bat-protégé Harper Row, then more flashbacky stuff, and Grayson encounters a costumed figure that could have used lethal force but doesn’t; we’re introduced to this “Mother” as a concept, and “The Orphan,” and ultimately get a fairly disturbing “reveal” for the ending of the issue.

Aside from the concept, probably the first thing I noticed with the issue was the art. I tend to enjoy Daniel’s work, and even on a hit-or-miss basis, this one’s a hit for me. I really liked the look of the issue on the whole–including Dick and Jason looking rather similar (thanks to metatextual knowledge of Jason’s creation/introduction back in the ’80s). Really no complaints visually.

Story-wise I’m less-keen on stuff. Structurally, I definitely appreciate the issue. I liked that we’re dropped in on action right away (rather than some “talking heads” situation), and I like that we get a bit of an overview of the characters that seem poised to be focal points of this weekly series. It’s silly details that hung me up–stuff like “The Narrows” as a location I don’t ever remember in Gotham prior to the Nolan films or the Arkham games, as well as stuff from Dick’s flashback to his first “super-villain” tying to those films. I can’t quite put my finger on why that bugs me, but it’s there. Hardly a “dealbreaker,” though. I have more concern with Batman–Bruce’s–actions and potential motivation, perhaps just on a metatextual level.

Whatever the specifics…I enjoyed this on the whole. The issue also felt thick (and it is–I count 30 pages of story to the usual 20ish) and so the issue is much more worth its $3.99 cover price.

Seeing the third volume of the paperbacks for the previous Batman weekly–Batman Eternal–also out this week plants the seed in my mind all the more that I might prefer to just wait for collected volumes…particularly given how quickly I lost track of DC‘s weeklies last year. If I’m not going to get around to/keep up with weekly issues and binge-read anyway…might as well wait for my preferred format.

Still…a good first issue, working well as a “pilot” issue and getting me interested, confirming that yes, I am (myself, at least) interested in where this story goes, whatever the format. And as a first issue…this is well worth checking out if you’ve any particular interest in Batman’s sidekicks.

Batman/Superman #3.1: Doomsday #1 [Review]

foreverevildoomsday001Tales of Doom

Written by: Greg Pak
Pencils by: Brett Booth
Inks by: Norm Rapmund
Colors by: Carlos M. Mangual
Cover by: Tony Daniel, Sandu Florea and Tomeu Morey
Assistant Editor: Anthony Marques
Editor: Mike Cotton
Group Editor: Eddie Berganza
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

This issue is REALLY the entire reason I “bought into” Villains Month at all to begin with, prior to deciding to “also” check out the Cyborg Superman issue and everything snowballing from there. Doomsday is probably THE key character for me, even more than the Cyborg, when it comes to my history with Superman. Whether the actual Doomsday arc, the issue of Reign of the Supermen where the Cyborg throws his body into space, the Hunter/Prey mini-series, the Doomsday Wars mini-series, his appearance during Our Worlds At War or his “Jokerization” during Last Laugh…the creature is one that I’ve “always” taken note of. 

All that said, my initial take on this issue is extreme disappointment. Labeled Doomsday #1 for the issue, I expected actual details–of the creature, of its past, clarification of its involvement with Superman already –and perhaps something of what might yet be coming. While we do get a look at the past, with the creature inserted much more closely to Superman himself in the family history…it seems to almost “cheapen” the character, making it just another part of stuff carrying over from Krypton to plague Superman on Earth, rather than something that arrives out of nowhere or “legend” and all that.

Rather than any real background on the character or firm details of the creature’s origins, we’re given a glimpse of a past encounter with the creature involving Zod, and from Lara’s perspective.  We get some development of Zod’s history with Supergirl (Kara)…which works in context of showing the danger the creature can present, of its place in Kryptonians’ consciousness…but really does not seem to “matter” for an issue that’s supposed to “focus” on the creature. This story seems like it would be far more appropriate as an issue of Supergirl, showing her remembering what she’s learned of the creature. Though the creature’s prominence on the cover is apt, this issue doesn’t really feel like it lives up to its “title,” and certainly fails to live up to my own expectations.

Despite that, had this simply been a random issue of Supergirl and I saw the creature so prominently placed on the cover, I’d’ve likely found this a rather enjoyable “one-shot” of sorts. And with the Zod/Kara stuff, it’s seeming likely that the entirety of Villains Month MIGHT actually drive me to checking out the Supergirl title.

The story itself is solid; I do like the art in and of itself. I don’t mind the reconfiguration of the bone protrusions from Doomsday, except the cheek-horns that just look totally ridiculous to me and seem a pointless addition to the face. While I’ll read about “any” Doomsday, this is somehow probably my least-favorite of all the looks the character’s been given.

All in all…I suspect if you’re a fan of the Supergirl series, you’ll enjoy this. Ditto if you’re a fan of Pak or Booth, or just want the cover to look at. With the apparent “consolidation” of titles for this month, I don’t know where Doomsday is likely to next show up (if at all), but this issue feels like it’s pointing me to the Supergirl title. If you’re expecting to find out where Doomsday came from in-continuity of New 52 or the New 52 “past” of the creature and Superman, you’ll have to look elsewhere or stretch a between-the-lines interpretation.

As a $3.99 one-shot with the fancy 3-D cover…if you can find this at cover price (or opt for the “standard” edition or digital edition), and don’t hold high expectations (or my comments have dispelled those expectations), it’s not bad and I have to “grudgingly” admit I’d recommend it as an expectation-less standalone.

Batman: Battle for the Cowl #3 [Review]

Quick Rating: Average
Story Title: Last Man Standing

The final battle (for the cowl) unfolds here, and we have a winner.

batmanbattleforthecowl003Written and Drawn by: Tony S. Daniel
Inks: Sandu Florea
Colors: Ian Hannin & JD Smith
Lettering: Jared K. Fletcher
Asst. Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Covers: Tony S. Daniel
Publisher: DC Comics

I feel like I’ve missed something…as somehow, this issue picks up from a point that I wasn’t expecting it to.

Basically, Nightwing and The Network set about dealing with this “new player” on the scene that has played them for fools (while they’d spent their time/efforts dealing with the Penguin/Two-Face feud). Nightwing tracks down Jason (Todd–the gun-toting Batman) and the two battle it out with Jason claiming Tim’s death; meanwhile, Alfred “enables” Damian to fulfill another role. And by issue’s end (barely!) we have a new Batman.

The art on this issue is quite good–I’ve enjoyed Daniels‘ art, especially his Batman work. While his style may not be for everyone, I enjoyed it and think it fits the story quite well, while not being bad on the eyes.

The story on the other hand has been downhill. The story itself felt rushed, like we were hitting upon a checklist of points to get to a prescribed ending. I’ve really never “felt” any attachment to the reincarnated Jason Todd, though for what little I’d followed the character, I expected more. Here, he came across as no more than just another take on the KnightsEnd Jean-Paul Valley/Azrael from way-back-when.

I don’t feel like this issue lived up to expectation. While yes, it does deliver on telling us who the new Batman is, that happens at the very end of the issue and actually feels tacked-on; I would have expected to see an issue given to watching the actual transformation of the character–the transition–from “old identity” to new, as a situation played out. So much potential, but pretty much wasted in the execution. Given the way it played out, I’m not convinced this 3-parter could not have been told across several issues of Batman and/or Detective Comics for a quick transition. As a mini-series, this is little but “transition” and does not feel like an actual, complete story was told.

Unless you’ve already picked up the first couple issues and/or want “the entire story,” this probably isn’t worth picking up; I suspect much better stories to come within the new status quo in the various Bat-related books this summer. At the least, don’t pick this up expecting a complex, moving story, as you’re likely to be quite disappointed.

Ratings:

Story: 2/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 2.5/5

Batman: Battle for the Cowl #2 [Review]

Quick Rating: Decent
Story Title: Army of One

The gun-toting Batman’s identity is revealed as the actual battle for the (right to the) cowl begins in earnest.

batmanbattleforthecowl002Written and Drawn by: Tony S. Daniel
Inks: Sandu Florea
Colors: Ian Hannin
Lettering: Jared K. Fletcher
Asst. Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Covers: Tony S. Daniel
Publisher: DC Comics

Last issue left off with our heroes facing a gun-toting Batman that had been spreading his own brand of fear in Gotham City. Nightwing and Damian confront this cowl-claimant, and Nightwing reveals who is behind the mask. Meanwhile, Tim Drake in a different Batman costume does things his own way, and comes across an old ally. Two-Face and Penguin are manipulated, and Tim finds what he is seeking, and enters his own battle for the cowl, as the gun-toter firmly acknowledges an agenda.

For me, the best part of this issue is definitely the art. It’s not perfect, and seems less-detailed in places…but overall is some of the better art I can think of when it comes to Batman-related stuff. Whatever depth the story itself has, the art fits the story, and gets across what’s going on–I don’t really ask much more than that of art in a comic.

The story is a bit rougher. On the one hand I really want to like this, as it’s supposed to be this major story in the Bat-verse and all that. But at this point, I’ve already decided who I want to see “win” by story’s end, and am not as interested as I’d thought in how we get to that status quo. Daniel definitely has a good handle on the art–and though his story isn’t all that deep, it is understandable and fairly straight-forward.

Overall, this is feeling almost like it’s just a transition-story…it offers some quick explanation of how the status-quo-to-come will be what it is, but doesn’t actually feel like it’s all that organic in development. (Perhaps I’ve gotten too used to the six-issue-arc model of many comics these days).

Recommended if you’ve already been following the story…nothing in this screams “check me out!” in and of itself, though.

Ratings:

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

Batman: Battle for the Cowl #1 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Story Title: A Hostile Takeover

In Batman’s absence, Gotham City has deteriorated despite Nightwing and Robin calling in backup from outside the usual bunch of costumed do-gooders operating in the city.

batmanbattleforthecowl001Written and Drawn by: Tony S. Daniel
Inks: Sandu Florea
Colors: Ian Hannin
Lettering: Jared K. Fletcher
Asst. Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Cover: Tony S. Daniel
Publisher: DC Comics

At this point in the overall story, Batman is gone/presumed dead by his closest allies. Even Gotham City as a whole has noticed the absence of Batman, as the underworld and gangs have gotten so bad that police officers are quitting rather than face being a cop in Gotham. Nightwing and Robin have called in other costume heroes for backup, though it is apparent that more than just a guy in a costume fighting crime so that there’s less, Batman has become a necessary entity in Gotham; the absence of which has tipped the balance against the non-criminal.

This issue–the first of only three (as opposed to the seems-like-standard 6-7)–seems to mostly be setup. We’re introduced to the major players–primarily Nightwing and Robin, as well as the other characters playing a role in this unfolding drama; for the most part, there’s at least token appearance of basically any “Bat Family” character you’d expect–or at least the characters are mentioned. I’d expected set-up, and the appearance of a lot of characters. However, I’d expected a bit more of an immediate confrontation to be kicked off, and was met instead with more development.

This story–written by longtime Bat-artist Tony Daniel–seems to play quite well in the playground established by Morrison during his run on the main Batman book, while also interacting with characters from outside–AND actually making sense on the first read-through. While characterization doesn’t seem to fully acknowledge long-term continuity (I’m a bit torn, for example, as to whether or not I think it’d serve the story well to reference 1994’s Prodigal arc in which Dick had temporarily taken over as Batman).

In addition to the writing, Daniel also does the art for the book. Said art comes across quite well, and the product provided by the entire art time (including inks and colors) is a visual that while not the best I’ve ever seen, is still solid, good work. Characters all come across clearly and distinctly, except for one panel that took me a moment to realize was Damian.

On the whole, this is a good start to Battle for the Cowl. It looks like most of the title’s actual battle for said cowl is going to be in the 2nd and/or 3rd issues. Despite being largely setup, this issue still has a lot packed into it that will hopefully pay off in the next couple issues.

Though this is a $3.99 book, there are 30 pages of story, which is just enough to keep me from crying foul. Whether you followed Morrison‘s Batman or Final Crisis (or not), you shouldn’t have much trouble picking up with this issue and enjoying the ride–all you need to know is that Bruce is gone and he has left a void.

Overall recommended, unless you’re specifically avoiding all “event” books or simply have zero interest in the Batman family of characters and how they deal with losing Batman.

Ratings:

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

Deadpool #19 [Review]

Writer: Daniel Way
Penciler: Carlo Barberi
Inkers: Juan Vlasco, Sandu Florea
Colorist: Marte Gracia
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Cover: Jason Pearson
Assistant Editor: Jody Leheup
Editor: Axel Alonso
Published by: Marvel Comics

For the most part, I’ve been looking forward to this issue since the Deadpool issue of Amazing Spider-Man several months back. This issue picks up on Peter Parker being the typical version of the character. After a near run-in with Deadpool, he hopes trouble’s not following…but soon finds trouble when a murder is discovered that seems to have Deadpool’s “fingerprints” all over it. Parker tracks Deadpool and beats the guy mercilessly before finally realizing perhaps he’s not the culprit…and Deadpool provides some new information as to who the culprit most likely is–as well as some background on this “Hitman Monkey” character.

This is the best Spider-Man I’ve read in a long time. In fact, it’s the only Spider-Man I’ve read in a long time…and so this story is all the more enjoyable for getting to read a character I like again–the Deadpool issue being the sole issue of Amazing Spider-Man I’ve been able to bring myself to buy since One More Day (and it read like an issue of Deadpool more than it did Spider-Man). Way captures a good part of the character–keeping him recognizable and believable, while leaving out details that date the character. Deadpool seems to be his usual self, which considering Way‘s still the writer, is a good thing. What I don’t care for is this Hit-man Monkey…from what I understand, this is a character created for some sort of webcomic on Marvel’s site, and he’s now being pulled into this title. Were he simply a random character being introduced here for the first time, it would seem far more fitting, and I wouldn’t feel like I’m missing out on some in-joke.

The art is quite good, and I really like the way the characters are depicted throughout the issue. Though I’d enjoyed the Deadpool story in Amazing Spider-Man, I recall the art being a complete turn-off…here, Spidey looks normal, if not very good as a whole…certainly significantly better than the last time I’d seen him. Additionally, this version of Deadpool has a certain visual “feel” that adds to me liking this book.

Story, art…this is a very good issue of Deadpool, and as the start of a new story–one involving Spider-Man–seems a decent point for new readers to jump in and check things out. Of the various Deadpool books, this (for the moment at least) is my favorite…perhaps for being rooted in actual ongoing main Marvel continuity rather than playing in its own sandbox off to the side or with what are–while good stories–still fairly inconsequential done-in-ones.

Highly recommended!

Story: 8/10
Art: 8/10
Overall: 8/10

Batman #687 [Review]

A Battle Within: an epilogue to Battle for the Cowl

Writer: Judd Winick
Penciller: Ed Benes
Inker: Rob Hunter
Colors: Ian Hannin & JD Smith
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Assistant Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Cover: Tony Daniel, Sandu Florea (variant by JG Jones)
Publisher: DC Comics

Though this issue boasts the Batman: Reborn banner at the top of its cover, it actually ought to be labelled with the Battle for the Cowl logo, the word “epilogue” clearly spelled out beneath. Though this issue takes place after the events of the Battle for the Cowl mini, it’s not all that firmly set into the territory of this new Batman: Reborn “era.”

We open on a flashback of Bruce and Dick, then move into Dick and Damian, juxtaposing the two relationships. We also see Alfred reacting to changes, as well as Dick and Tim having words over Damian’s new role as Robin (reminds me just a bit of things during the early issues of KnightQuest: The Crusade back in 1993). We also get to see Dick in action, having accepted the need for a Batman while still struggling to embrace the cowl. Damian shows his brashness, and Dick–as Batman–reveals himself to the city as he shows up to face the Scarecrow.

The story is fairly straightforward. It’s not all that moving exactly–I definitely wish that Final Crisis had not had the epilogue it did–better to have been left guessing at the truly definitively final fat of Bruce to make this stuff more moving and impactful. It is nice, however, to see some of these moments happening given how entirely RUSHED the ending of Battle for the Cowl felt.

The art’s quite high-end…it’s good to get Benes’ art again on something I’m reading; I’ve enjoyed his work pretty much since I first started recognizing it in particular.

As an epilogue story, this will probably be more enjoyable/fitting for longer-time readers (particularly those who followed the Battle for the Cowl stuff in any form). The next issue I believe will kick off the action within the new status quo, and so will probably be a better jumping-on point for new readers.

Not a bad issue, but nothing to get terribly excited over.

Story: 7.5/10
Art: 8.5/10
Whole: 8/10

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