Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Death of the Family Part 1: Batman #13, Batgirl #13, and Batman & Robin #13

I have been waiting for this crossover for months. And it's finally here!

I know what everyone wants to hear about, so let's just dive right in.

Batman #13

Holy. Crap. This was beyond amazing.

There's not much that I can say that either hasn't already been said or won't be harped on across the rest of the comic review sites, but everything in this book hit. I had thought Batman #5 and the Court of Owls storyline was amazing, but if this first installment is any indicator, this will blow it out of the water.

I never mention the covers, but I love what they did here. An extra flap resembling the Joker's dismembered face was a nice touch, and I love how it just sits over the face of a member of the Bat-family in each installment. (It's done on the Batgirl cover too.)

This book opened in as ominous a manner as it could. The way Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock are talking, mentioning bad omens that had been mounting and such, I thought we were joining in the middle, but just like any good Joker story, you're thrown for a loop.

The police station's power goes out and Joker begins picking people off one by one. Joker really isn't shown well in this part of the story, so to the critique of how he took out so many officers without them seeing, my guess is he had done some prep work and scouted all the station's best areas to conceal and gave himself some advantage to see better in the dark.

It's great to see the entire Bat-family immediately need to see what's going on upon hearing of Joker's return, and every attack that Joker uses is a complete game of mental chess.

And I'd hate to say it, but it does seem like Batman was rusty in his game of wits with Joker. Mr. J was able to throw him for a loop multiple times in the book and walked right into a trap. I like the touch done here because it actually made me wonder if Joker had a point, and that really is a key to making a Joker story work: On some perverse level, you can see the point he's trying to make, and that causes uneasiness.

I won't go into any other specifics because it's really incredible to see Snyder's writing mixed with Capullo's brilliant drawing style.

The back-up story shows the lead-in to how the final swerve of the comic came to be, and it's the first time in the New 52 that the dynamic between two iconic characters has a development. That's all I'll say on that.

Overall, this read nearly perfectly, and if Batman #5 was one of the greatest individual Batman issues of all time, then this one definitely needs to be in contention. With this issue's accessibility, writing and art, if this doesn't draw a reader into Batman comics, then only the completed graphic novels have a shot.

Lastly, a big dose of respect for Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, because with the drawing style and dialogue, those two were where I immediately shot for Batman and Joker's voices in my head.

Batgirl #13

This one is called a prologue I guess because 3/4 of the book finishes the arc that was left hanging when #0 month came around.

As a conclusion to the Batgirl-Knightfall storyline, this had an amazing fight scene and showed some great competence from Batgirl as she tried to end the fight before the stab wound made her too weak.

I do have some complaints, though. Why did Knightfall suddenly decide to start monologuing? I mean, it was good stuff and some of the best part of the story, but nothing really prompted it and it felt out of place.

Also, what was up with Barbara's brother just monitoring the fight. I'll probably remember what was happening when I go back and read the previous issues, but that goes to show why two months is too long a wait to conclude an arc this complex.

Lastly, what was with the finish to the fight? Batgirl basically acknowledges there's no way to get Knightfall into prison because of her connections, but the solution really doesn't help the problem. It may get her arrested, but how it helps the court case is beyond me.

The end of this book, however, is what wins my approval. Besides the DOTF tie-in where Joker's goons have a certain legendary Bat-re-enactment in store for the Gordon family, the last year of Batgirl comics suddenly have a coherent point.

Remember when I pointed out that Batgirl's foes kept being people with tragic backstories who went rogue and now want some deranged justice that Batgirl must stop? Well, I guess Gail Simone noticed too, and came up with a way to at least make that situation have a point.

Overall, I can't recommend this book on its own merits because most of it concludes an arc and really isn't that accessible until the final few pages.

If you plan to collect the whole DOTF crossover, though, then you may want to. There's plenty to like here and it's done better than the last few Batgirl issues, but it's just not enough accessible pages for a casual reader.

Batman and Robin #13

Incredibly, even though this book has nothing to do with the crossover for two more months, it somehow tied into DOTF more than Batgirl's book did.

This story takes place, I believe, a little while after what occurred in Snyder's book. Damian is now studying the Joker's history when Batman takes him on a space road trip. Seriously.

This book dove into the bizarre and insane quite a bit. Batman's going into space to adjust a satellite during a solar eclipse; Robin's got a gigantic bounty on his head (thanks to Batman Inc.), which a giant... thing tries to cash in on; and to top it all off, there's a gigantic freaking zombie apocalypse going on!

Peter Tomasi took the superstitious omen part of the Snyder book and apparently decided to expand that into a zombie apocalypse, complete with reanimated corpses fresh (by zombie standards) from the Gotham cemetary.

What's even weirder is that while most everyone thought that this would be a one-shot due to Halloween, this is actually happening and is going to be the story until the book joins the DOTF crossover in December. How in the world this is going to tie into the Joker is beyond me, but I'm willing to let Tomasi try to make this make sense. (My guess is Joker's gas did something that allows him to remote control the bodies, but we'll see.)

Pat Gleason must really love his job, as he gets to draw the most absurd Batman stuff of anyone in DC right now. And to be fair, he does it well.

Overall, I love that this book is really going to focus on Robin, as seen through the last few issues, because it's really the only book where the Dynamic Duo is utilized and Batman has enough books that he dominates over.

That said, this is truly an unusual place to take a Bat-book, so I understand people being turned off to this idea. Flip through it at the comic store, and if it looks like something you want to invest the next two months into, be my guest. I'm just killing time until Damian finally comes face to face with ultimate chaos.

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