Wednesday, 21 September 2011

52 New Beginnings - Batman

reviewed by Matt Puddy

Scott Snyder is currently one of my favourite writers on the DC roster, so you can imagine how excited I was to find out he was taking on the Batman reboot. Much as I admire him though, I have to be honest and admit that I have been a little confused. All of the new titles are set either now or five years in the past and I am struggling to place the timeline. Parts of the story, such as Dick’s height and appearance, say five years but other continuities such as the technology say now. Once you put that aside though it is a very easy and engaging read.

There are a number of little nods of things to come as well, such as Joker’s “escape” which means that even from the first page building blocks are being set in firm foundations.

I really like the way that the narrative, regardless of who it is, can flow with the dialogue rather than simply around it and forms part of the story to also spur this all along.

Frustratingly though, Capullo’s artwork is also a mingling affair. To me there were a number of styles across the comic which to its strength did actually punctuate the different sides of Bruce but equally it also went to extremes. The gritty grimy Dark Knight frames have some superb images with great use of shading and shadow but then also fall towards John Romita Jr's style on Kick-Ass but then the bright and open portions where Bruce is himself almost look like 'The Incredibles' in style.
As I said the dichotomy of the artwork, if intentional, can be frustrating but is also very fitting adding a good emphasised twist visually.

The hooks are most definitely there for fans to dig into and this should captivate and entice old and new fans alike. One that will be staying on my pull list.

reviewed by Matt Puddy

Kyle Higgins dives straight into the new Nightwing title and wastes no time at all stamping down on the fact that this is Dick Grayson striking out from the shadow of the Bat.

What I have really liked is that you can really feel the enjoyment and freshly found freedom that Dick is lavishly experiencing through his internal monologue. To further build on this the scene is set further by the environmental changes, the city has grown and changed, but so has Nightwing.

Aside from seeing Dick in the various Batman comics, Nightwing as a standalone title is fairly new for me so I can view this from a relative outsider's point of view. I know about Grayson’s past and childhood so the circus coming to town wasn’t a surprise, however the amount of athleticism within the issue was. There are a lot of powerful poses and flash frames given which, given a large proportion is based at night, simply oozes energy and invigoration. Even when the story (albeit briefly) slows it’s a time that is used for reflection and even more development.

Enter stage left - the villain - or at least a potential one anyway. There is a logical assumption that the shady character seen arriving is to become something more but there has been so much focus on who Grayson is and who he has become that the introduction of an assailant becomes a little lost and almost underwhelming. Nightwing is seen being left in a cliffhanger situation, however due to the build up I didn’t feel any sense of real tense dilemma.

The issue is vibrant and fierce, almost jumping out of the pages at you and it certainly makes a massive emotional connection. My big concern though is wondering if the action and deeper storylines can hold this together. For now, I am left waiting and watching this one.

Red Hood And The Outlaws
reviewed by Ben Fardon

Hush. No, don't put your fingers on your lips, this isn't a clumsy metaphor form Mark Gatiss. I'm talking about Hush, the acclaimed Batman storyline by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee that pitted the Caped Crusader against a tour de force through his rogues' gallery, before facing the eponymous new villain.

Some say it was a poor rehash of the Knightfall storyline, with Hush repeating the same tactics that Bane used to wear down the Bat, but I loved it and for me the most evocative part of the storyline was the red herring misdirection in the penultimate issues - the return of Jason Todd. The former Robin had been murdered by American comic fans who voted to end his life and in the Death in the Family storyarc, the Joker did as they demanded.

Initially Jason's return was shown to be a ruse created by Hush with the aid of Clayface, but the resurrection of the former Boy Wonder resonated through the DC Nation. It was later retconned in a subsequent storyline to show that Jason really had been revived using one of Ra's Al Ghul's Lazarus pits and Clayface had merely swapped with him at the end covering his escape.

Since then, Jason had been gunning for Batman and Joker alike as the Red Hood, but with little success. Now he's moving on. Striking out from Gotham for (clearly deliberately) sunnier climates, he's found a new companion in the form of former Teen Titan, Starfire. The new title kicks off with the two of them rescuing Roy Harper aka Arsenal from a sticky situation, then heading for some R&R by a tropical beach. Nice work if you can get it.

It's a brash and fun first issue, but it's by no means amazing. I was excited by an ongoing title focused on Jason Todd so I'll stick with it, but thus far this motley crew of Outlaws hasn't quite gelled for me. Rocafort's artwork is lovely, but Lobdell's script didn't quite capture my attention, though the teaser at the end means I want to read the second issue, if only to see if a few of my assumptions are correct.

Finally, continuity fiends beware - this issue is a mix of both satisfying references to the past and completely frustrating contradictions. Jason's hair is now dark rather than ginger, so that he looks a lot like Dick Grayson. I assume this has been done to distinguish him from Roy, but has potential narrative implications too. There are nice references to Gotham and his old friends and enemies, plus references to Dick and Starfire's past, including their incarnation of the Teen Titans. But Starfire is aloof and callously sexual, resembling little more than male fantasy wish fulfillment than a character in her own right. And most annoyingly, there is no reference to Cry For Justice, any association between Green Arrow and Roy or indeed Roy's cybernetic arm. I guess that is one of the true casualties to the reboot. A real shame.

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