Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Comic Book Reviews: Batman #20 and Batman & Robin #20 (Batman & Red Hood)

That is a borderline absurd number of Batmans in my headline! The only reviews I have this week are Scott Snyder's final non-Zero Year story for 11 months and Peter Tomasi's trip to Stage 2 of the five stages of grief.

Batman #20

Scott Snyder completed his two-issue Clayface arc, as Basil Karlo looked to beat up Bruce Wayne to lure Batman out, steal Batman's DNA and end his effectiveness for good. Bruce gets thrown into a chamber with Lucius Fox, who helps Bruce escape, and then the flashback ends in time for Bruce to have his showdown with Clayface back in the present.

It's a quick story, and there's so much action going on that it's easy to overlook the problems, but I do want to voice a couple. One thing that is noticeable is that Basil comes off as a complete asshole in this arc, and a lot of the characterization shown in John Layman's story is missing. They read like two different Clayfaces, and that leads to a disjointed feel in the Bat-verse.

Another: How does Lucius Fox not know Bruce Wayne is Batman? How is that in any way logistically possible given how involved he is in storylines. I'll have to go back and read Nightwing and Batwing books, because I'm pretty sure that he knew that fact in earlier issues in this universe.

Lastly, if Basil can assume any millionaire's form, why waste time dealing with Batman? Just lock one up and operate as them indefinitely. This seems like a lot of undue risk.

But overall, Clayface's character has some depth to it in this story and Batman utilizes some awesome tools to protect his identity and win the fight. The end goes into Bruce and Alfred grieving over Damian again and the emotion emitted from Greg Capullo's art is one of the highlights in this book.

The back-up story's art is pretty weak, but for a two-off Superman/Batman back-up story, this was pretty good. It showed Superman at his toughest and gave a softer side of Batman. Both heroes came off looking good in this and I give credit to James Tynion IV for that.

This book is not a must-buy, but it's one of the more fun ones you can pick up this week. Next month's issue will be a must-buy regardless, though, so if you want to save the four bucks, I'd understand.

Batman & Robin #20 (Batman & Red Hood)

Red Robin helped Batman through the denial stage of grief by denying readers the chance to see him for more than a few pages. Today, Red Hood helps Batman through the anger stage by helping him maul bounty hunters and having a rage fight with him.

It's kind of odd to see Batman make ANY concessions to allow Red Hood to use a gun, but given his emotional state and the fact that Jason still wasn't allowed to kill made it ok. What I didn't like was how Batman suddenly made Jason relive his death to see if he could help bring Damian back. Given where the story had gone to that point, it made more sense to me if Bruce nearly went over the line and Jason had to punch him back into reality. This felt kind of weak by comparison.

The other part of this story was Carrie Kelley angrily confronting Bruce over the thousands of dollars he tried to give her. (That a**hole!) She's certainly not the same person as she was in Frank Miller's story (really, no one is), but this universe's version is likable enough. This one has been through different experiences and so she should be different. I'm still not sure why you went with Carrie over an original character (or Steph Brown!) but whatever.

Patrick Gleason's art is decent but he splits time with some guest artists and so it's not the best issue in terms of art.

Honestly, this isn't a must-buy, or even a must-read, but skim it and take note of the last page. It looks like we have a Two-Face story coming in next month's Batman & Batgirl issue, which of course will deal with Stage 3: Bargaining.

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