Friday, 9 September 2011

52 New Beginnings - Batman

reviewed by Kate Townshend

Alright, I’ll be honest. I’ve long been a bit of a Batgirl skeptic. I’ve always had this uneasy sense that she’s not much more than a Batman fan girl, a sidekick at best, a child to be patronised and indulged at worst. Don’t even get me started on the ‘girl’ thing.

But Barbara Gordon has always been the most empowered version of Batgirl, and to my relief and pleasure the New 52 have very much run with this. Babs is back, her paralysis at the hands of the Joker not retconned but reversed, which is a decision that already gives this new Barbara an interesting edge.

In the first pages of the comic she is kicking ass and taking names, but there is nothing one dimensional about her return to crime fighting. She might talk the talk as Batgirl, but Barbara is a real person and one who still bears the mental scars of her past. Appropriately enough an assassin style figure called the Mirror flits across the pages, as Barbara struggles to reconcile herself to her own shattered identity. Is she a terrified victim or a courageous hero? Is it possible to be both?

For some people, the angst might become rather wearing after a while, but I like the darker mood it brings to this new incarnation. Murdered families, and fears of paralysis and mutilation haunt the story, and almost everyone is hiding behind their own mask, whether real or metaphorical.

Given that the Batgirl identity has always been treated as something that can be put down and picked up at will, I have high hopes that this new series will delve deeper into the idea of what it means to be a whole person in the face of this. Will the Mirror show us the real Barbara Gordon? Here’s hoping so.

reviewed by Robert Barton-Ancliffe
Batwing is the first solo title for a character first introduced in one of the more forgettable issues of Grant Morrison’s Batman Incorporated. The title caught my eye but at the same time left me a little skeptical. While there is definite kudos in expanding the concept of the worldwide network of Batman sponsored crime fighters, the main question is how well the book can establish an identity of its own, particularly given the potentially risky concept of an ‘African Batman’.

On opening the book, my fears have largely been allayed. Judd Winick’s script throws us right into the action as our hero faces off against the new villain ‘Massacre’. While Batwing evokes a violent past, we also learn that he is relatively inexperienced as a vigilante. In the opening battle Winick wisely keeps the dialogue to a minimum and lets Ben Oliver’s luscious artwork speak for itself. While short on background detail, the rendering of the characters is gorgeous.

As to the story itself, this also surprises. After opening battle with this month’s villain, the book explores Batwing’s day to day life as embattled and frustrated police officer David Zavimbely who stands alone in a world of corruption and apathy. I’ll admit, I’m no expert on politics or social affairs in Africa so I can only hope that Winick has researched his setting well, but some of the violence and corruption depicted in the book chimes with news reports from the continent over the last decade or so.

While it almost seems as if the story is setting up a new status quo with obvious parallels to Batman and Superman, I must say that as a reader I was gloriously wrong footed by the final act which ups the violence and jeopardy to an alarming degree. That said, the violence, while graphic, never feels gratuitous, and I have a feeling this will help take Zavimbe’s character to darker places in the future. As for the Batman connection, the Dark Knight does make a brief appearance, which helps both to ease in new readers but also tie ‘Batwing’ in with the larger mythos, but having passed the baton, there really is no need for us to see him again for the immediate future.

On the basis of this issue, I think that Batwing might definitely hold its own against some pretty stiff competition, but it won’t convert non-superhero comics fans with the same style or grace as the likes of Batwoman.

Detective Comics
reviewed by Matt Puddy

Wow! Tony Daniel has taken up the mantel of both writer and artist for this fresh (and I use the word almost ironically) beginning in what is a fantastically written issue with a dark and dirty feel to it all. It’s hard to finish the issue without feeling slightly unclean by the end but at the same time so excited for taking in every page and frame.

Stepping back to when Batman was an unknown quantity for the GCPD and his only ally inside was a cautious Gordon we are given a man fighting on all fronts. Reminiscent of previous incarnations, this Batman is focussed, stern and most interestingly driven by guilt or potential guilt if he doesn’t make things better.

There is a clear association and bond between him and his surroundings which is highlighted in his frank conversation with Gordon when he defines himself as Gotham. Even better is the completely unhinged Joker. Not the giggly Ceasar Romero joker, but the paradoxical random yet planned deranged and methodical Joker. To him there is beauty in brutality and serenity in mayhem. I absolutely love it.

In harmony with the great writing, the artwork is stunning. Full of depth and detail it tells a story of its own. There is even a cheeky rework of the Batsuit that also works well.

I simply can’t say enough without saying too much! Let's just say the imagery on the final page will stay with you for a long time...

This is my absolute stand out title of the week. If you’re a Batman fan then get this title, if you’re not then become one! If you’re unlucky enough to miss this and it sells out then I have two words for you. BACK ORDER. You don’t want to miss out on it! You have been warned!

1 comment:

  1. I picked up and LOVED Detective Comics! So good! I've got Batman #1 on order as well, can't wait to see how the 2 titles work together!