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.

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