Sunday, April 14, 2013

Comic Book Reviews: Batman & ... #19 and Batgirl #19

I'll admit: I've been heavily weighing whether I should keep reading either of these books further, as one has lost the character that justified its existence, and the other was about to finish an arc that lost any and all steam when Ray Fawkes let all the air out of the sails with his guest writing.

But wow, am I glad I didn't because honestly, these two felt like they were more impactful than Scott Snyder's book, and that is an accomplishment!

Batman & Robin #19 (Batman & Red Robin)

We begin the slew of odd naming conventions for Peter Tomasi/Patrick Gleason's book, as the title cannot reasonably call itself by the name that gave it its value in the first place anymore. Thankfully, it's still Tomasi and Gleason, and this is the best book DC is producing at the moment.

The Golden Duo open with, of all people, Carrie Kelley (that is how it's spelled in this book), who has been evidently teaching Damian acting techniques. I thought the silent issue last week listed Clark Kent's movie recommendations (C.K.), but turns out they were teasing the in-canon debut of Frank Miller's Robin.

This development still throws me off. Why are we insisting on making Frank Miller's work canon? Yes, I get it: Year One and The Dark Knight returns are always in people's top 5 Batman stories, but honestly, do you really want his work to be canon?

He's produced as many bad Batman stories as he has good ones, and even his legendary stories do stuff to the characters that I find unsavory (Jim Gordon the adulterer, Selina Kyle the prostitute, etc.). So how about his stories occupy a world that isn't the main DCU, huh?

Anyway, this title gives Red Robin high billing, but he's not a huge factor in the book. This thing should have been called "Batman and Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E." because his stuff takes up far more time.

Not that it's bad; I actually loved it and almost felt compelled to pick up a trade of Frankenstein because of this book. He's witty, sympathetic and full of surprising wisdom.

Batman in this book is trying to come up with ways to revive Damian, unable to accept his death. And while he is clearly crossing some moral lines here, he never breaks completely with reality and honestly, when you hear his arguments, it's kind of hard to counter.

Bruce is right. Superman, Jason Todd, even he himself had been considered dead in this New 52 universe and yet the laws of death seem to roll over and play dead for them. Why wouldn't a proactive solution be feasible?

Overall, this is a nice entry into Bruce's grieving process and I think a wise decision has been made to allow this process to stay in Tomasi and Gleason's hands.

Batgirl #19

Batgirl produced an excellent conclusion to the James Jr. arc, in spite of the fact that so much of it was embarrassingly average.

Gail Simone throws bombs at the reader, as Barbara tries to reason Jim Jr. down, but the ever-in-control brother leaves numerous fail-safes for himself.

I will admit that I hated his motivation in this story and really wish he'd just been a straight sociopath instead of receiving this transparent "not-really-middle-child" syndrome.

Also, I don't know if this story is meant to imply that the Bat-Family is known to not always follow Bruce's lead, but Jim Sr. seemed really quick to bury Batgirl for failing to save his insane son. Will that conversation about overzealous associates be coming up with Bruce soon? Do we want it to?

Lastly, I want to give credit to Gail Simone for her handling of a transsexual character. It wasn't made to be a big deal, served a good purpose (allowing Barbara and her roommate to bond) and was just accepted, something that should be done in more books involving transgendered people.

The story set up a succeeding arc that hopefully is able to take advantage of this unusual set of circumstances, although if the Ventriloquist is involved, I'm a little unsettled. Let's hope Simone has something really creative in store for the villain who has only been interesting in the Animated Series to date.

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