Thursday, April 12, 2012

Comic Book Reivews: Batman & Robin #8, Batgirl #8, and Batwoman #8

A lot of people complained about DC Comics after the first issues of the New 52 came out regarding the treatment of female characters.

Legendary characters like Starfire and Catwoman took on a sexual nature that was extreme even by comic book standards, but luckily, there were still plenty of strong female characters like Wonder Woman, Batgirl and  Batwoman.

Well, after this month it would appear that the two female members of the Bat-family have a completely different problem: They are simply not written strongly.

But before we get to those books, I've been waiting a whole month for this one:

Batman and Robin #8

It may not have the same universe-wide impact of the Snyder Bat-book, but if this wasn't the best-written Bat story for the last few months then I must be insane (which I may be, but that's another story).

This issue pretty much just concludes the first arc of the New 52 era, but man, was it done well!

Following Damian's finishing blow to NoBody, Bruce takes his son home and a level of emotion not seen often in Batman is shown. He yells at Alfred to pay attention to Damian and treat him first, and it's clear that Bruce is going through an unbelievably tough time here.

For a man who had been taken to the limit by the Court of Owls, Bruce's emotion actually came out in an equally strong manner here. The difference is that Batman's sanity was tested by the Owls; his humanity and affection for those he cares for are tested through his feud with NoBody.

Both characters grew tremendously through this arc, and the message Bruce left for Damian is finally addressed. Damian and Bruce appear to now have an understanding why each other is the way that they are, and Damian now can see the seriousness of Bruce's moral code.

Alfred has been characterized brilliantly here, and it's great to see his character used not just as a butler, but as a valued confidant and member of the team.

Lastly, the art is absolutely great here. It's smooth and doesn't have the same grittiness of the other Batman-featuring books and as such can appear far more natural when lighter moments happen. And with Bruce's son involved with this book, there needs to be a capability for lightness here.

If you haven't followed this arc, you'll have to skip this one because the entire story is dependent on knowing the prior plot. That said, this was a great conclusion and the book is set up perfectly for a one-shot tie-in to "Night of the Owls."

Batgirl #8

I think I'm starting to wear out of this book, to be honest.

There was plenty of good storyline here, but it was marred by messy dialogue and completely stupid emotional reactions to situations.

Case in point: Barbara Gordon has run into one of the criminals who was with the Joker the night she was shot. He's now working for a meta-human whom she needs to catch.

Meanwhile, Barbara finally chooses to meet with her mother for the first time since she left, and she finally learns why she left.

Both storylines sound amazing, and the first does lead to an awesome fight scene while the second sets up one hell of a cliff-hanger ending involving her roommate.

Here are the problems: While the art is seemless and great, and while the ending itself works, the expositions and everything that leads to the conclusion is bad.

Upon seeing the man who helped the Joker cripple her, she lets him go. There is no explanation, no rationale. It just happens.

One would assume it was to catch the big fish of the group, a meta named "Grotesque," but it appeared that she wasn't prepared for his counter-trap, so if that was it, then she's incompetent. It could be that she wanted to let him go for what happened that night (It makes sense with spoilers, but I don't do that), but considering he is accessory to murder, if that's it she's sociopathic.

Speaking of sociopaths, Barbara's mom (who is also named Barbara and looks like Barbara in most shots. Try sorting that one out) gives possibly the worst explanation as to why she left her children. EVER. Of all time.

Not to give it away, but Jim Gordon Jr. is involved. And given the extreme reaction she has to a situation that a psychologist, Jim Sr. or Batman could have easily helped to fix, I am now kind of regretting the return of this mother character.

I feel like Gail Simone is trying to make every revelation shocking, and by doing so the book is getting progressively more insane. This issue made me really miss the old Casssandra Cain and Stephanie Brown volumes of the Batgirl title (the former I own in its entirety, the latter I own three-fourths of the series). Both knew what they were and lived by that tone, whereas Barbara's volume is trying so hard to be serious while keeping the original fun roots of Barbara that it looks ridiculous.

Thankfully, Batman Inc. should bring Cass back into the Bat-verse. At least with that Batgirl I know what I'm getting (hopefully).

Batwoman #8

Next month, I'll get to review both the Birds of Prey and Catwoman, so this month, I figure I should touch on the one active Bat title that isn't in the NOTO crossover: Batwoman.

I'll admit freely, I only read this title in the stores, and from what I gather from the brief looks at the book, the art is still amazing (though not as great as the first arc), the story is ridiculously annoying to try and follow.

The story-telling is non-linear, goes into flashbacks frequently and maybe it's just me, but I like when the panels are squared and don't have distracting shapes (or characters that bleed into multiple panels.

I already struggled to get into this book because it deals with the supernatural far more than any other Bat-book (something I don't relate too all that often in Gotham-based titles), but now the story breaks into background adventures every few pages. It's like the story format is done to accommodate "Naruto" levels of filler except without taking months to get back to the plot.

Also, while Amy Reader is a great artist, I can see now why she's tired of working for this title. There are pages where the work looks a little half-assed, and I can tell she is done with this book.

I know a lot of people like this title, but it's not that good right now. I would not pick this title up at any point in the near future. Wait for the arc to conclude, see how the new artist draws, and make a new judgment in after the summer.

The biggest week in Bat-comics is next week! I'll see you then with Batman, Red Hood and Nightwing reviews.

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