Thursday, 14 November 2013

The Mane Event: Batman Zero Year tie-ins, Detective Comics #25 and Action Comics #25

At the time of writing this review I have to say that I have only very recently completed Batman Arkham Origins, so my mindset for Gotham and it’s inhabitants is set in an appropriate timeframe for the Zero Year, with a very early Batman and an equally younger Jim Gordon.

The reason I mention this is twofold. Firstly the Zero Year tie-in issues are set in the past in the wake of an enigmatic new villain for Batman, The Riddler, who has effectively blacked out Gotham. Secondly Detective Comics #25 is based around Lieutenant Gordon in a precarious situation.

Gotham is in ruin and somehow still descending. The aftermath of the Red Hood Gang has opened the door to a variety of masked criminals coming out of the woodwork and to make matters worse a growing number of police officers are being paid off by the better off crooks. The cancer goes deeper than many suspected as well with Roman Sionis even having members of Internal Affairs within his grasp. Realising that Gordon was better off dead, arrangements were made for him to be thrown off the  New Trigate Bridge so that it looked like suicide. But somehow he survived...going back to the station armed with enough evidence to clean up the force. In one short issue he becomes the driven and focussed officer of the law we all know, complete with a new association.

What I’ve really liked about John Layman’s story is that it’s not excessive and over the top, or trying the blighted New 52 formula of attempting to recreate a character the readers know well. Instead we are given a solid foundation to the motivations that drive the man. All this without really pushing the Dark Knight on the reader as well. Jim Gordon is very much the star of the issue and carries it well. OK, so Batman does come swooping in at one point, but it’s a thought the reader has well before so he doesn’t steal much of the limelight at all.

Jason Fabok has provided the artwork for the issue and it’s great. He’s previously provided artwork for Detective Comics and it is very similar in style to another favourite of mine, Tony S. Daniel. Full of detail, full of action and often windswept and rain lashed. It’s an involved, yet dark depressing cityscape but very nice to let your eyes wander around.

As an issue exploring someone other than the Caped Crusader, this works well and is definitely worth a read.

Moving from the dark and into the light Action Comics #25 focuses firmly around a youthful Superman as well. Set back in the time first redefined by Grant Morrison and Rags Morales when the New 52 launched, it's a phase where the fledgling Superman isn't really sure of his full powers and boundaries.

Finding himself enjoying being able to use his power and needing a further outlet for it, Clark decides that he is going to head to Gotham to attempt to prevent the incoming storm. Running almost parallel to this, and very briefly retconned at the beginning, is Lana Lang also caught in the storm. 

Ultimately this is a story about wanting to do the right thing, but not really knowing quite what that really is and not necessarily going about it the right way. In Clark’s case it is also about learning about himself and understanding his personal boundaries, especially where the forces of nature are concerned!

It’s also the strangest comic book appearance of a whale I have seen in quite a while too! It seems that no matter what Clark wants to do, if someone is in trouble and he can help, he will help.

Now personally, I am not a huge Superman fan but when it comes to Greg Pak’s work I will happily give anything a read through at least once, especially after his opening story on the new Batman/Superman comic demonstrated he could make the inexperienced Man Of Steel more interesting than others writers have managed. I'm glad to say this one did indeed pique my interest as well. My one reservation is that this does really feel that the Zero Year connection has been really shoe horned in to this one. These are events that really could have happened anywhere. It predates Supes discovering he could fly, meaning that catching a lift on a plane’s fuselage is necessary. Things did seem rather convenient, especially when the ship in peril towards the end contains none other than Lana as well. That said Pak has written another good story but then I would expect nothing less.

The artwork on the other hand wasn’t massively impressive. It conveyed everything you could want or need, but it didn’t overwhelm me. Aaron Kuder’s work was good when it came to mechanical items or the raging waves and swell of the sea, but when it came to depictions of people I found it rather minimal and basic. For me it took away some of the emotions from the characters, although you still get the overall feel but I feel this is more through the narrative as opposed to the artwork on its own.

As a Zero Year comic I’m not sure this really works as it really is a rather tenuous link to the events in Gotham City, with no real ties to any of its inhabitants. As an issue showing Clark’s personal development and growth then this is far stronger. Fans of the New 52 Action Comics who are seeking a return to its roots will not be disappointed, but this is one to avoid if your only interest is the Zero Year angle.

Matt Puddy is keen to get the latest issue of Batman in his hands.

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