Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Comic Book Reviews: Batman #18 and Batgirl #18

The death of Damian Wayne made an impact on the Bat-titles this week, and while I wasn't initially going to read Batgirl this month, the "Requiem" initiative this month has forced my hand.

But first off, let's talk about Batman.

Batman #18

The first issue following major arcs in Scott Snyder's world appear to be Harper Row issues, as we once again get to check in with the girl who is becoming one of my favorite DC characters.

Harper and her brother, Cullen, are seen visiting Blackgate prison in this book because their father has been caught and sent there. Her dad seems to believe that Batman is the cause of his imprisonment (leading me to wonder whether his beatdown was in an earlier book or not) and he proceeds to prove himself to be a complete a**hole.

Once the touching visit ends, Harper dons a catsuit far more practical than anything Catwoman wears and continues her weeks-long stalking of Batman, who she has noticed is becoming more careless and weaker as of late.

What really makes this issue strong is the emotional exchanges between Harper and Batman/Bruce that make up the last few scenes.

I'll admit, the first few scenes are a mixed bag. Not that they're poorly done; just very long-winded and lacking in humor. The Batman scenes are heavy enough without a second depressing storyline mixed in without energy.

Overall, though, there is a hopeful message in the story and I love how Harper manages to finally get through to the Bat.

The art is a little weak. Greg Capullo really is missed here. The artist for the back-up's space was a little better, but since the back-up is just a continuation of the main story, all that happened for me was a feeling of being jarred at the sudden style change.

As a book, this isn't anywhere near Snyder's best work, but it's still a solid story. And I enjoy seeing Harper whenever possible.

I've said I want her to be the new Robin or Oracle, and I think we're moving toward that. Let's hope she does well in John Layman's arc in Detective this summer, whatever her role is.

Batgirl #18

I will definitely admit that Ray Fawkes' work on this issue is miles ahead of his effort last month. It's still not that great, but it's a step up and has set Gail Simone up nicely.

The focus of the story is Jim Gordon Jr. once again narrating the story as he sets up a showdown with Batgirl. I like the unique perspective but REALLY don't like how it seems like he knows everything that's freaking happening in the story.

Jim Jr. is not some brilliant observer of the human condition, nor is he omniscient, as we clearly see in the scene where he goes looking for his mother. That being the case, how the hell is he this knowledgeable about Barbara's mental state and why is he so damn wordy?

The scenes that really sell the book are the ones where Batman informs Jim Gordon Sr. of Robin's death and his subsequent emotional phone call with Barbara. It's just a great father-daughter moment and one that does a good job of conveying Barbara's emotional response to the news.

Those pages alone sell the book, which is good because this book otherwise isn't worth a buy. Hell, even with these pages it's probably not worth a buy. You could run through the pages in one minute at the comic store and then just read the last scene to set yourself up for next month.

Those pages are important to read, though, as there is a good setup at the end of the book for the coming finale of the Jim Jr. arc.

I will say, though, that I'm thrilled Gail Simone will be taking the final chapter on herself. This book has been a chore the last two months and it needs a writer who can actually write Barbara's thoughts into her own book.

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