Comic Review: Batman #33 gives the Dark Knight a glorious birthday present

Batman #33 Gordon Bat Signal
Batman #33 is so much more than a Riddler romp.

The purple-and-green puzzler may be the final baddie of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s brilliant Zero Year arc, but he’s really just the spark that lets the true stars – Bruce, Alfred, and most importantly, Gotham City – shine through.

And so it’s fitting that Snyder gives us the ultimate Batman-Riddler showdown right off the top, delivering on the disco ball death trap we left off with at the end of Batman #32. Snyder writes some strong riddles (and/or borrows them), but he and Capullo take the scene beyond a simple Q&A. You can feel Batman’s impatience as he tries to beat Riddler and get the city on line before military jets destroy it. Above ground, Jim Gordon and Lucius Fox confront the jet problem more directly, doing their best to divert the incoming fighters by creating a certain “signal” to keep them at bay.

But back to Bats. He wins, of course – this is comics – but Snyder’s got more to say than “Batman wins.” Batman has to shock himself to restart a heart monitor attached to the city power grid, and that fixes everything. But Snyder and Capullo slip some odd hospital scenes in between that shock sequence, and those seemingly insignificant flashes become what the story is really all about.

That does it for the traditional Bat-tale. The bad guy has been defeated, order is restored, and we can all go home, right?

Not quite, and that’s why this comic is great. Snyder saves a good chunk of the comic to reflect and bring all his character storylines to a close in a series of deft, heartrending scenes that could only work with Greg Capullo working the pencil.

First, Bruce buys Jim Gordon a new coat, delivering on one of the subtle symbols Snyder established just a few issues into Zero Year.

Then, Snyder pulls the rug out from under us, revealing that Bruce tried to use electroshock therapy to “reboot” his personality and become someone else. We see flashes of the scene all through the Riddler fight, but they don’t make sense until the end, when Bruce reveals it to Alfred.

But that deft turn doesn’t just mean something for Bruce, because Alfred – clinging to his paternal feelings for Bruce – has one of Bruce’s old girlfriends waiting in the wings. It’d almost be adorable if it wasn’t so sad, and Capullo makes it all the sadder. He draws a happy yet heartbreaking montage of Bruce’s life from this point forward – candlelight dinners, marriage, kids, a happy visit to the movies – only to yank it away. Because Bruce is set on his path now, and the last few pages of this comic are about Alfred coming to terms with that. He’s kissing that happy life for his pseudo-son goodbye, and learning to accept what must be.

“I’m so sorry, miss,” he tells the girl. “But I’m afraid he’s been spoken for.”

And Capullo ends it with a full-page shot of Batman swinging out into the city.

9.5 out of 10

Comic Review: Grayson #1 feels like Mission: Impossible 3

Grayson #1
From the perfect haircut to the face-changing to the spygames, Dick Grayson’s new world in Grayson #1 feels like somewhere Tom Cruise would be right at home.

This comic is all about espionage and double-blinds and undercover plots, with a big twist of pseudo-science thrown in. The art is good, the character rings true and there’s enough here to warrant sticking on board, though Grayson doesn’t quite leap out of the book and grab you as an issue #1 (though there’s plenty of leaping going on).

Mikel Janin handles art duties with some clean pencils, but there are a few points where you have to stop and re-read sections because he loses you in the visual logic – especially in the jumping scenes.

The comic opens with a train heist which DC readers will already know from seeing it printed in the backs of other comics all through June. Dick sneaks onto a train somewhere in Russia while wearing a blonde wig. After a run-in with a very Bond-esque femme fatale and some help from an equally Bond-esque female spy (more on her later), Dick kidnaps a fat Russian man and escapes the train using some form of chemical to make the man cooperate with him.

Dick is working for Spyral – apparently as a double-agent – helping the mysterious organization capture people to reclaim a bunch of powerful body implants that grant superpowers. His boss is swirly-faced Mister Minos, and he’s aided by a certain Helena Bertinelli, the alias of Earth-2′s Huntress. This Helena is blacker and less costumed than her alternate universe equivalent, as Nightwing readers saw at the end of that series’ last issue.

That’s not to say it’ll stay like that forever, though.

Writer Tim Seeley brings out Dick’s sense of fun in the writing and also creates a few sparks between him and Helena, but the most engaging part of the story comes in the middle, when Dick is holed up at a nuclear silo with his abductee.

As soon as Dick gets there he’s attacked by Midnighter, a cowled hero in black armour and a dark coat. Midnighter had a brief New 52 existence in Stormwatch, but that didn’t last long and had few readers. Instead, it appears the character will get some work in this title as a good guy-foe while Dick works undercover.

Grayson #1 is admirable if only because it takes DC’s most-developed character and develops him even more. It’s easy to tell DC has a lot plotted out for this character in the future, and while this first issue doesn’t wow, it does suggest plenty of layers that we’ll get to see peeled back in issues to come.

Oh, and the gun on the cover? Dick never uses one. We’ll see if that keeps up.

7.5 out of 10

Batman Eternal #12 gets ambitious – and delivers

Batman Eternal #12 cover
Batman Eternal #12 is, front-to-back, the most solidly-constructed issue of this series so far. Mikel Janin’s art is clean, crisp and firmly rooted in the Bat-verse, while James Tynion IV’s script is expertly-paced and well-delivered.

For the first time in a while, the art here is an absolute treat. At first look, Janin’s work appears simply solid. But on closer inspection, it starts to become clear just how much Janin has done his homework. His work is many-layered, drawn with all the dedication of a true Batman devotee.

In one scene, Batman is disguised as a helmeted prison guard, yet it’s clear who he is immediately, simply from the stern shape of his jaw and the way he frowns. That same scene includes a wonderful nod to Greg Capullo’s Death of the Family artwork, as Janin recreates the haunting bridge shot from when the Joker first confronted Batman with his plans to destroy the Bat-family.

The story has layers, too. Where past issues have been tripped up by too many plotlines, Tynion does a fantastic job of threading all the disparate storylines together. We get one scene with each storyline, and those single scenes are all just enough to whet the appetite. Red Robin, Batgirl/Red Hood, Bard, Gordon, Batman, Harper Row and Alfred/Julia Pennyworth all get time in this story, and yet it doesn’t feel bloated.

Batman Eternal #12 finally feels like there’s a strong hand guiding this ship. With superb art, deft plotting and a strong command of the many characters at play, Batman Eternal #12 is simply wonderful.

9 out of 10

Comic Review: the Xavier kid is alright in All-New X-Men #28

All-New X-Men #28 cover

All-New X-Men #28 fixes a lot of what went wrong with the Battle of the Atom event – in more than a few ways.

In terms of story, young Charles Xavier and his half-brother, Raze, get the character-building attention they deserve from Brian Michael Bendis in this latest All-New X-Men issue. Bendis simply didn’t have the space to both introduce, explain and wrap up Xavier’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants from the future during his Battle of the Atom storyline, but he seems to be rectifying that problem now.

Much of All-New X-Men #28 focuses on the Mystique siblings and their relationship with Hank McCoy, as Bendis begins to flesh out the future world he only hinted at months ago. We get a glimpse into the Brotherhood’s team dynamic (hint: it’s no team), and we also get a proper explanation for why pacifist Hank McCoy is helping a psychopath psychic (hint: mind control).

We also get a proper explanation for why these guys are alive and back in the past again, as the first group to foray into the past managed to warn their future selves with a note. If that’s confusing, read the comic. You’ll get it.

Yes, just as the Brotherhood righted their mistakes in the past, so, too, does Bendis seem to, as he uses this comic to develop Xavier from weird pseudo-clone status up to being a full-fledged villain. This Xavier is arrogant and powerful but young and angry – an interesting mix, given that he knows more than his opponents, yet is still very inexperienced himself.

Xavier’s plan centers, of course, on taking out Jean Grey, but not a whole lot happens with the present-day X-Men where she’s concerned. The struggle at Cyclops’ school advances a bit, but the real meat and potatoes of this story lies in the future, with manipulative Charles, angry Raze and poor, poor Hank.

That’s not to say the present is boring though. Bendis spices things up some his typical witty dialogue, and even includes a fun anti-hero shoutout when someone asks Raze who his father is.

“Batman,” is the first answer.

“Wolverine,” is the second.

Stuart Immonen’s art is spot-on again, and while he doesn’t get a lot of spectacle in this issue (mostly more Jean Grey and Cyclops pink/red explosion panels), he has a marvelous spread of future Beast’s labratory.

All-New X-Men #28 makes a proper enemy of Charles Xavier Jr. and his team. And while the Battle of the Atom event may have been a bit disappointing, Bendis looks like he’s got this series ready to dovetail nicely with the events of Marvel’s big Original Sin event.

Give us more evil Xavier. He’s great.

8.5 out of 10

Comic Review: Forever Evil #7 worth the forever wait

Forever Evil #7 DC Comics cover by David Finch

Delays be damned, this comic was fantastic – and totally worth the extra cover price and months-long wait.

Forever Evil #7 is a big-ticket superhero brawl and an intimate character piece all at once. It’s an artistic tour de force by David Finch and a new foundation for the future of the New 52 from Geoff Johns.

It is, in no uncertain terms, a game-changer, especially for Lex Luthor.
Read more…


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