Thursday, 15 September 2011

52 New Beginnings - Batman/Justice League

Batman & Robin
reviewed by Matt Puddy

Fresh from the pen and pencils of Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason we have Batman & Robin.

Many of you will know that it was only a relatively new title before the reboot. Begun by Grant Morrison, it very much seemed like a means to an end in the wake of the Return Of Bruce Wayne, but Morrison was followed by Cornell, Tomasi and then Winnick. But after only 25 issues does it have a place in the new DCU?

Well, the answer is yes, no point beating about the bush. Tomasi has taken the opportunity and worked it well. Instead of dropping everything that has happened in the past and setting things back five years as other titles have done, Batman & Robin continues from where the things left off much like Green Lantern. This is immediately seen with the new partnership of Bruce and Damian (Dick is off playing Nightwing), the short lived Russian Batman Incorporated crimefighter and more importantly a beautifully created new adversary simply named Nobody.

The writing is direct and pushes the personalities of the characters. Damian, for example, is blunt, matter-of-fact and lacks any idea of subtlety or modesty. Just the way he should be. It makes for awkward reading, but that it what it is meant to create as this is a fragile team at best right now. Things are also most definitely harsher now, which shows.

Gleason has also worked well on the linework. There is a lot to be said for someone who can literally draw only half a comic and use the shadow and shading to produce so much depth filling the void as well. There are almost understated backgrounds too which punctuate the art. Mick Gray also uses a varied but vibrant palatte to accentuate images. The combination has worked really well.

The premise may already seem a little formulaic but ultimately this is a good multi-layered title.

I’m dying to see where this Nobody goes with the attack on Bruce Wayne and not directly Batman and it bodes very well for the future. For at least Tomasi’s reign I’ll be following.

reviewed by Robert Barton-Ancliffe

Having had her first, slightly dubious introduction in 52 back in 2006, this week Batwoman finally gets a long awaited solo title. Following departure of original writer Greg Rucka, artist J.H. Williams III and Haden Blackman have assumed the difficult task of following the character’s stellar run in Detective Comics a couple of years ago. Thankfully, the character is in safe hands, as Batwoman #1 proves to be worth the wait.

Batwoman stands up well as a solo title, and while the DC Universe has undergone a major shake-up, the character thankfully emerges largely unscathed. The story follows on directly from the events of the ‘Elegy’ storyline in the aforementioned Detective Comics, but this issue nevertheless provides a good introduction to the character for the uninitiated, as a new status quo slowly take shape across the course of the issue.

Not only do we see Batwoman thrust headlong into action against ghostly new villain the Weeping Woman, but we also see the introduction of a new love interest for alter ego Kathy Kane and a potential new partner thrown into the mix. Also, there are hints of a longer term threat as a shadowy villain (the Black Mask?) begins to take an interest in Batwoman, sending a field agent out to confront her.

It is a testament to William’s and Blackman’s careful approach to storytelling that so many new twists and turns do not feel rushed or forced for the sake of a new beginning, and can be comfortably assimilated by old and new readers alike. William’s artwork is as stunning as ever, with creative layouts, rich use of colour and spot on characterisation which gives as rich an impression of Kathy Kane’s personality as the brilliant script.

Batwoman is an adult comic, but not through use of titillation or gratuitous violence. The professional and personal trials faced by the titular hero are complex and well developed and the overall experience on reading is one of sheer exhilaration. Batwoman is as original as any superhero book I have read within a mainstream continuity. My only proviso in recommending this book would be for new readers to seek out the excellent collected edition of Rucka’s run on ’Detective Comics’, entitled ’Elegy’ as the back story given within this issue is a little rushed, and should be experienced in its full glory.

Mister Terrific
reviewed by Ben Fardon

Why? That was the question that tripped off my tongue when I read the DC solicitations in July. Why Mr Terrific? Out of all of the JSA to survive the reboot and get a solo title, why him? I've never found Mr Terrific particularly inspiring as a hero - he's just very bland. Good in a team ensemble of heroes, but he just doesn't feel up to the task of carrying an ongoing series.

At best it seemed like pie in the sky thinking. At worst it was an attempt to raise the mix of ethnic diversity in the 52 line up. That treads a fine line between being a commendable goal and positive discrimination - which is something I personally find a little insulting.

Mister Terrific is the third smartest man in the world. His real name is Michael Holt and he's the wealthy owner of Holt Industries. He uses gadgets and technology of his own devising to become a superhero. Sound familiar? Are you immediately thinking of Marvel's Iron Man? Quite so.

Mr Terrific has added pathos in that he lost someone close to him. Not unlike another wealthy, intelligent, unpowered hero in the DCU. In Mr Terrific's case, he lost his wife in a car accident. There is potentially a darker cause behind this tragedy, but that remains to be explored. In the pre-Flashpoint universe, Holt also lost his young son with his wife, but in the this new DCU his unborn son appears to him from an interdimensional portal when a grieving Holt is at his lowest. This young man tells him not to give up and to use his intelligence to change the world.

The rest of the first issue consists of Mr Terrific doing standard superheroics and briefly hanging out with Karen Starr. It's unclear whether she is Power Girl or not, though there are definite hints that she and Holt have something of a casual relationship going on. I suspect all of this will just serve to infuriate JSA fans.

Overall, I simply didn't connect with this new book and I still question why it exists. The pencils clearly try to evoke US President Barack Obama in their portrayal of Mr Terrific, but I really feel that well has run dry now after the Spidey issue, Barack The Barbarian, President Evil and countless others.

A final page twist did nothing to convince me this book would deliver something unique. It felt less like the setting of a bigger agenda and more like a misdirecting cliffhanger akin to the end of an episode of the camp Sixties Batman series. Mr Terrific isn't an awful first issue, but it is just like the title character. Bland.

1 comment:

  1. Soooo tempted to buy even more batman comics! No, I'm gonna stick to Detective Comics and "Batman". I can't really justify buying more than 2 comics about the same character. Just hope I'm buying the best 2!