Friday, January 20, 2012

Comic Book Reviews: Batman #5, Nightwing #5, and Red Hood & The Outlaws #5

Sorry for the delay on this one, but the first week of school had me busy. I finally got around to reading these books, so let's get to the reviews!

Batman #5

I know most of you are here to read about this book, but I do hope after I review Batman, you do stick around for the other two. That said, I can't say I blame you - this book was BRILLIANT.

In what has been the best book I've seen since the reboot, this story begins in the Court of Owls' maze, where evidently Batman has been wandering for a week slowly losing his mind.

It's amazing to watch the Batman lose it, realize he's losing it, but still have the Bat-cajones to think he's still in complete control of the situation.

Other reviewers have probably talked the art style to death for this one, but honestly, it deserves all the praise in the world. The panels are flipped so you have to read sideways, upside down and even anime-style (right to left). It really does reflect Batman's confusion, as even I had to read twice just to make sure I read it right.

The best part of this book, though, was the Robin cameo and his obvious worry for his dad really gave this book a great emotional level, and I thoroughly recommend Batman #5.

Nightwing #5
I love the art in this particular installment, but the story just screamed "filler episode."

In this, Nightwing went to New Orleans with the circus and he has to protect one of the circus clowns from a vengeful voodoo-priestess lover and the demon she summoned.

That's pretty much the focus of this whole book.

I love the take on the Nightwing in this title and the main arc has been great, but this was just way too out there.

It felt like they were just looking for a way to delay the payoff for another month, and maybe that's so the arc can finish in time for the "Night of the Owls" special. That's not going to make this a big-deal story, though.

I'd still read this book, especially for the side story with Dick's romantic life and the big cliff-hanger reveal on the final page, but if you don't buy filler books, here's one.

Red Hood and the Outlaws #5

I said in the last review that Red Hood should have his own book if Starfire and Arsenal were going to continue to drag the story down, but this book did provide a glimpse as to how this book could work.

With Starfire powerless and cowering at the mercy of Crux, Arsenal fires arrows and self destructs them to take him out. There's actually some character development on all three characters this go-around, but I still feel like Crux sucks as a villain in general and the Outlaws' side story should have closer ties to Jason's.

Meanwhile, Jason has found new motivation to fight that isn't the Joker and Batman, and his brutal killing of the member of "The Untitled" sparks an angry mob when they see her human form destroyed.

Jason Todd will eventually need to re-learn the dangers of collateral damage, it would seem.

Overall, I liked the story, and it's probably the first or second-best book in the series. The first minor arc really ends here, so I'd recommend getting involved with this book and this is a good one to get a feel for the series before the next arc begins.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Comic Book Reviews: Batman & Robin #5, Batgirl #5, and Batman: The Dark Knight #4

The first superheroes I ever saw were Adam West and Burt Ward playing Batman/Bruce Wayne and Robin/Dick Grayson in the 1960s. Since then, although I love the superhero genre, Marvel and DC alike, I refer to myself as a Batman fan.

My whole childhood, my vision of heroes consisted of the original dynamic duo and the Barbara Gordon Batgirl. This has resonated to the point that the only comics I buy religiously have some connection to those individuals and/or their aliases.

As such, this is my favorite week of the month. Peter Tomasi's Batman & Robin and Gail Simone's Batgirl come out the second Wednesday of each month, and they are definitely amazing titles.

However, as there are only two books this week, each month when reviewing these two books, I'll review a wild card. This week will be last month's Batman: The Dark Knight.

Batman and Robin #5
I will say this many times, but this is the BEST title in DC Comics right now. Damian Wayne in the last few years has been unpopular with readers, mainly because he was almost the straight-man to the more relaxed Grayson Batman and the Stephanie Brown Batgirl.

While it led to some funny moments, and I did love Dick and Steph in those roles, being able to draw on the fact he is the son of Batman and a trained fighter thanks to his family in the League of Assassins has led to a darker, but more dynamic character.

'Nobody', the new villain in this arc, has his background revealed in this issue. Evidently he was the son of Ducard, one of Bruce's trainers, and has been dealing with decades of being butt-hurt that his daddy paid more attention to the future Batman than him. As such, he now looks to take Bruce's son and bring him to his side: Protection via execution.

While most of this story is a flashback, it's necessary for the villain to make sense, and the story ends with a critical decision for Damian (no spoilers here). Overall, this book puts on a clinic as to how to tell a story, and Tomasi, Gleason and Gray should be proud here.

Batgirl #5
Barbara Gordon has had her fair share of challenges trying to get back on her feet (so to speak) since shaking off her paralysis from "The Killing Joke" and regaining the Batgirl mantle for the first time since before my birth.

The first story with the villain Mirror was pretty straight-forward, but the story it told was amazing. The story in Batgirl's second arc is too early in to tell, but it sets a good foundation while frustrating the reader with how little was actually accomplished.

Issue #4 left on the cliff-hanger that Barbara's mother had returned. However, their meeting was brief and left me wanting more.

The same goes for the villain. Evidently, this 'Gretel' has an obsession with the number 338, but it wasn't explained nor was it explained how she's controlling minds.

It's a nice story (though the whole "villain uses mind control to make people kill each other" thing was used in the second story arc of the LAST Batgirl volume in 2010) but it tries to do too much too quickly.

Don't get me wrong - the story is still fun, the Bruce Wayne cameo is well-done and the art is amazing (seriously, LOOK at that cover!), but it's so busy that the explanation of how she regained the use of her legs was a throwaway line in the opening monologue.

The writing needs to take the advice Barb needs to take: Focus on one main story and don't try to over-exert yourself.

Wild Card: Batman: The Dark Knight #4
If Vince Russo (of WWF, WCW and TNA fame) attempted to write a Batman comic, I imagine it would look like this one.

Story-telling is clearly a secondary feature in this series, as things seem to happen for no apparent reason. A girl in sexy white garb who calls herself the White Rabbit and makes presents appear out of nowhere diverges a little too much from reality for my tastes.

Mysticism is a base in any comic, but it's rarely so out-in-the-open as it is here.

I'll say this: If you like things blowing up, the classic villains popping up one after the other, and a book that actually attempts to work in the other comics' storylines (albeit poorly), then this is one to look at. It will be completely incoherent, but at least it'll look pretty, as the artwork in this book just OWNS.

This is more a critique on the series and not the individual book, mainly because I lost it when Batman and Alfred sat around in the Batcave randomly eating ice cream and sharing dirty jokes. I'm just glad they remembered:

I honestly tried to make myself like this book, but it's just so over the top that I will probably give up on this one to buy Detective Comics. The Penguin is involved, so look for that one next month.

Comic Book Alert: Batman Universe is getting bombarded by Owls!!!

So as I was checking Google News for stuff on South Carolina primaries, MMA and such, I ran a search for Batman and saw news that the Court of Owls from Snyder's Batman title will be expanded into the first bat-universe-spanning cross since the New 52 universal reboot.

"Night of the Owls" will be covering nine titles starting in May, eight of them in the Bat-universe and one strangely in the All-Star Western title.

For those who haven't been following the New 52, you are MISSING OUT. The true title of the Caped Crusader has been searching for a group responsible for some recent deaths. And they are none other than Gotham's legendary Court of Owls.

The Court, and leader Talon, had been believed by Bruce Wayne to be a myth (mainly because he had searched for them as a child and couldn't find them). However, recent events have shown that they not only have existed long before Wayne was born, but that they do not consider Batman a threat at all. (They allowed him to run around for years out of amusement and don't appear interested in even knowing the Bat family's respective identities.)

This is building towards the conclusion of the story in May (Issue #9) and has gained the support of nearly all the Bat-verse. Three titles will be sticking with their respective stories, but that should be good to allow some variety for those people who for some reason can't get into this storyline.

Now, this will not be a true crossover storyline (in that you don't have to buy all the titles in order for the story to make any freaking sense), but it is being cross-promoted. Besides Snyder's title, Batman & Robin, Batgirl, Nightwing, Red Hood & the Outlaws, Catwoman, Birds of Prey and Batwing will all be part of the process.

Since the New 52 started, I've gotten 30 Bat books spanning across eight Bat titles, and thanks to this storyline, I'll finally have to invest in the three I hadn't looked into.

Don't get me wrong, every Bat title has a place, but I'm not emotionally invested into the Batwing character, Catwoman never excited me enough to buy a solo title, and BOP just doesn't warrant a purchase when team books like the Justice League and Teen Titans exist.

At least that's my view. That may well change in May when I make my first voyage into these titles since the reboot.

I was going to review three books in this blog, but it would be an eyesore to read at this point, so for those of you waiting for my B&R, Batman: The Dark Knight and Batgirl reviews, they'll be up later tonight. (Can I just say I'm REALLY glad TDK will not be inserting itself in this crossover? Thank you!)

Of course, you don't have to invest in all the May Bat books for the Court of Owls storyline to work for you. Actually, each of the titles is doing a different aspect, so no book necessitates the other. And Batman's arc can be figured out without going into any other side story (so for those of you who can only afford one Bat book, you'll be OK sticking with Snyder's arc).

Personally, I can't wait for May! I buy five of the titles anyway, so I look forward to all of them getting involved. Plus, with my graduation that month, I'll need a LOT of entertainment over the four-hour ceremony.