Thursday, December 22, 2011

Comic Reviews: Batman, Nightwing, and Red Hood & The Outlaws #4

Twice a month, I will be reviewing the comic books I follow regularly. One of the posts will be reviewing Batman & Robin, Batgirl and a third non-committal comic. (Right now, I'm reading Batman: The Dark Knight, but I may be switching if the plot doesn't get less ... insane and TNA-esque).

On the second review of each month, and this one in particular, I'll review three titles that always come out the same day: Batman, Nightwing, and Red Hood & The Outlaws.

Personally, if I ranked the five regular titles right now it would be (each place by a fairly close margin): Nightwing, B&R, Batman, Batgirl and RHATO. That may come as a shock to those who are hailing the reboot of Batman as one of the best arcs in years, but to me, it's all about the dynamics going on in the comic.

Without going too deep into the other two, I LOVE B&R's focus on how Damian Wayne - the current Robin - is working with his father, Bruce, who has just recently taken back the cowl of Batman. Bruce's reluctance to put too much on his son too quickly and desire to be all business as Batman are perfectly within his personality. And at the same time, it frustrates the born fighter that Damian was born and raised to be (both by his father and mother, Talia al Ghul.)

And Batgirl has been fun for the storyline of Barbara Gordon trying to get back into the groove of being Batgirl after being bound to a wheelchair for years (three in the new canon) after the events of The Killing Joke. But I felt the PTSD she felt early on was a little forced, and I'm not loving her roommate as a character.

Anyway, on to the three I'm supposed to be reviewing this week:

Batman #4
I do love this comic, don't get me wrong. Just because I favor two of the other Gotham titles does not mean by any stretch that Scott Snyder has not created the best Batman solo title of the three currently active.

In this one, Bruce is still on a search to discover who this Court of Owls is, and for that matter, what their leader Talon wants.

Although the villains are new, the backstory of the COO and how they've long been connected to the Wayne ancestry has made them feel like legitimate foes early on, and I have loved seeing them get built up.

This issue was more of a backstory, in that Bruce spent nearly half the non-ad pages telling Dick Grayson (original Robin, interim Batman and current Nightwing) about how he knows that the COO are a myth, citing his desire to find them after his parents' death.

First off, let me credit artist Greg Capullo for making sure young Bruce bore a striking resemblance to Damian. I appreciate that the Waynes all have a distinctive look no matter which "Batman" comic you're looking at. If I have one criticism it is that this backstory ran a little too long. What I really am questioning now, though, is whether Bruce is right and this is an impostor COO, or if he just wasn't good enough to find them as a kid.

I was really hoping to get more of a face-off between Batman and Talon, but Snyder left us on a cliffhanger. This is frustrating, but I look forward to seeing the showdown between the COO (real or fake) and the Dark Knight.

Nightwing #4
Once again, Kyle Higgins and Trevor McCarthy remind me why this is my favorite of the New 52. The artwork on this one is brilliant, and specifically the cover was the most eye-catching in the store:

The plot of this one doesn't really push his blood feud with Saiko any further,  but it takes a moment to discuss Grayson's relationship with Batgirl.

Batgirl's writers had a chance to put their stamp on their "unique" relationship in Batgirl #3, and Nightwing's writers cite that issue as a springboard to put Dick's take on the matter. From what I can tell, the two are going to be that couple everyone just WISHES would put down their guards and be open to each other, but can't bring themselves to do so.

Bringing in Batgirl, though, does put a bit of a damper on Dick's relationship with Raya. That pairing screamed temporary to begin with, and after this issue I wouldn't be shocked if most fans root for it to end. Though the fact that Raya and Barbara looked so much alike was a nice touch.

Ultimately, except for one page that had so many panels it took me a while to figure out the plot, I enjoyed the ride on this one, and I look forward to seeing Nightwing get back to finding out who knows his identity and debating what he will do with the circus he has just inherited.

Red Hood #4
What drew me to the Red Hood series, and what keeps drawing me in, has bee Jason Todd. The former second Robin has been a golden character since his return in Batman: Under the Hood.

In this one, Jason and Roy are hunting for a member of an alien race called, The Untitled. Meanwhile, Starfire gets intercepted and is caught in a battle with a vengeful scientist-monster hybrid named Crux.

While I am loving the Jason-Roy duo, Starfire's portion of the book was weak. Crux's character was not given a very good backstory, and the fight scene was fairly weak.

I also wasn't sold on the artwork. It was by far the weakest cover they put out, and I feel like Jason's facial expressions were off and out of character at times. It seems like the only piece of artwork they truly focus on is making sure Starfire looks appropriately inappropriate.

Jason and Roy's battle with a cop, who turned out to be an Untitled, was what really sold me here. Jason is the renegade while Roy plays the recovering straight man. It's a dynamic that should be enjoyable for arcs to come.

As a whole, I still thoroughly enjoyed this book, but unless they have a plan for Starfire to be more than the alien chick who sleeps with the other two guys (a lot), then she needs her own book. So much of her plot felt out of place and needed more room to develop.

That's all I have for this week. Check in with me next month!