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Tpull's Weekly DC Comics Review – Part 1

Batman 688

by Judd Winick and Mark Bagley

Let me say that this issue is a definite improvement over the last issue. That said, there are some problems. For starters, this whole deal of flashing forward to try to build some anticipation does not feel good, because there is no connection we can relate to for the rest of the story. Good storytelling makes sure that there is some linkage. Granted, you can probably figure out who it is, but that’s not enough.

The second problem is the newscast. The actual logic of it is great: Dick intentionally makes Batman more visible so the normal citizens of Gotham will know Batman is alive and on the job. The criminals are put on notice. But the cameras on the docks just aren’t as good as the pictures that accompany the newscast. They cover this like we’re there getting a scene of what actually happened, as opposed to real news footage. They should have either disassociated the newscast from the action a little bit, or kept it tied together, but given us a more realistic camera-on-the-dock view of the activity.

The logic fails a little if you think too much, because they stress about how the crime scene is clean, and the cops have a better case to make criminal charges stick than before. Excuse me, but did we have a problem with Bruce being sloppy before? Where did Dick learn his meticulous attention to detail from, if not from Bruce? As much as I like what Winick tried to do here, it was sloppy, and poorly conveyed. Also, the emphasis that “this new Batman is working for us” was over-emphasized. The newscaster meant to imply that this is the same Batman doing things a better way, but readers could assume from this statement that all of Gotham knows there’s a new Batman. As it’s meant to be taken, as a little joke, it is too heavy-handed.

The next part fails because we know it won’t stick: Gordon brings a new guy to the rooftop, cluing us in to a possible future passing of the torch. The problem is, we already know Winick will be leaving the title soon and Tony Daniels will be the writer, and most of us already know that Bruce Wayne will be back. This means that Gordon will return to his normal position as the signal operator. If DC truly allowed the change to be permanent, then this element might have more meaning, and again I have to give credit to Winick for a good idea that just won’t stand the test of time.

Now for the parts I do like that do stand up well: the difference in fighting style and costuming between the Batman and Robin suits was great. Bagley’s art Is better than ever, and I wonder if Rob Hunter’s inks are helping to make Bagley’s traditional Archie-type faces look more substantial, or if Bagley is simply getting into the Dark Knight feel of things. The training sequence with Damian is right on, with Dick being always in control, but Damian eager to keep pressing on, despite his impatience, inexperience, and arrogance combined with frustration.

The final part with Two-Face recognizing the difference between Bruce and Dick is the final part that doesn’t help the initial premise of Batman becoming more “public.” Dick is a very intelligent person, and he would have weighed the prospect of live footage of him with the prospect of his ingenious adversaries, many of whom would be able to tell that the real McCoy is not wearing the cape. I can’t help but feel that Dick (or at least Alfred) would have realized the drawbacks of moving from the urban legend to light of day, and would have decided against it.

The end result is a readable comic, but with small mistakes in composition and setting, and clever plans trying vainly to make an impact that are doomed to failure, in light of DC’s inability to stick to having a character die and have the universe move on. This is the perennial problem for comic companies: they use death too much, and it means nothing. The fact that it means nothing, and that the status quo will return, makes attempts like this to show movement and growth irrelevant, and destined to fade into nothingness as soon as the “dead" character returns. DC had a choice: they could either stop with the hyped “deaths,” or they could go all the way and make it stick. Their attempts to sell comics by artificial stimulus while still always returning to the old framework put promising ideas like the ones Winick tries into an early grave.

Booster Gold 22

by Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund

The cover showing the classic Robin costume combined with the other characters tells you we will be visiting the New Teen Titans, pre-Nightwing days. The cover is cool, and the intrigue surrounding Black Beetle and his shadowy master is growing. The plot gets slightly more complicated and interesting when Booster learns that the past can actually be changed (after all this time Rip and the universe spent during his Barbara Gordon/Joker incident to reinforce the fact that Booster can’t change jack in history), but only if a “variable” has been introduced.

This leads us back to the classic original Ravager tale which brought Deathstroke into conflict with the Teen Titans. Jurgens has a great command of the characters for their respective time frames, and Rapmunds finishing inks are crisp on Jurgens’ pencils. Rip does a little investigative work, proving that he doesn’t know everything, and that helps the title. He can be taken by surprise.

Booster is still slow to learn. After all this time, he thinks his job is simple, and he just has to keep Ravager from killing Robin and/or the Titans. It never occurs to him that the other, opposing faction of time travelers might appear to make his job more difficult. While he should have learned by now, it is in classic keeping with his pattern of thinking that this thought never occurred to him. While in other characters, we might chastise a writer for artificially making the lead character so dense, this is actually in character for the Booster we know and love. He’s not stupid, but he doesn’t think things through as well as he could. Rather than being angry if a writer had someone like Batman act like this, it works very well for Booster Gold.

So at the end, Booster just can’t win. He can’t “fix” the bad things in the past he wants to repair, but the bad guys seem to be able to change things the way they want, and Booster can’t even stop that! Good stuff.

The backup tale is getting better, and Mike Norton’s pencils are improving slightly too. Matthew Sturges writes a crafty tale that shows Jaime using his brain when the suit starts acting too aggressive, shows us a great lover’s spat between two teenagers that is completely believable, and throws a couple twists at the villain part of the puzzle to make things a little less straightforward than you might have thought. Not bad for eight pages!

Red Robin

by Chris Yost and Ramon Bachs

The narration panels already mess things up, as the first thing we see is “twenty-four hours from now.” The problem is that the next page tells us we went back “twenty-four hours earlier,” which places us… where? 24 hours earlier from now? Or 48 hours earlier, because we went 24 hours earlier from the “24 hours from now” bit? I’m going to say this one more time, okay? EDITORS! Please do a better (censored) job! The successive transitions are almost as bad, with a poorly defined time-structure and awkward shifting between past, present and future. For instance, when we switch from Tim learning that Ra’s al Ghul is on the other end of the phone, we do NOT get a caption telling us we’re back in the past, but we do switch to a previous time with a scene with the Spoiler.

The rest of the plot is reasonably well done, and the penciling is good. Tim faces down some of al Ghul’s thugs, who didn’t know who there were going after. Ra’s didn’t really order them to do it, as much as not try to stop their idea of fun. The intermissions show Tim going radio-silent, cutting off contact from all of his traditional supporting cast. Yost tries to make us believe Tim is going darker under his Red Robin persona because he hit a girl, but since she was firing automatic weapons at him, it’s hard to think anyone would blame Tim.

Better than the first issue.

Superman: World of New Krypton 5

by James Robinson, Greg Rucka, and Pete Woods

Glowing heads give us imposing judges for Kal-el’s trial, as Superman stands up for his beliefs. Zod’s case is won, and technically, Superman is guilty. The penalty without a Phantom Zone available is execution, though! Despite a trap laid by Zod, Superman stays in prison and goes to his apparent death.

In a nice twist, Zod himself decides that, although he could have legally had Kal executed, Kal actually serves his military better alive. Zod isn’t a good guy by any means, but his decisions are plausible, if slightly contradictory with each other in rapid succession. The assassination attempt at the end was a bit of a surprise to me, too, which is always a good sign in a comic story. Pete Woods maintains his art style, which still has some limits without another person improving on the inks in places, but not bad either for the most part. Overall, this felt like a real solid hit in the series, and made for good reading. You might feel a little whiplash at Zod's attempt to kill, then rescue Superman, but it is not too hard to wrap your brain around, if you can buy into Zod's goals and greater ambitions.

Tpull is Travis Pullen. He started reading comics at 5 years old, and he can't seem to stop.

Posted by Travis on July 10, 2009 3:16 AM
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