Last week obviously ended up being an even bigger week than it seemed at first glance (and it was looking pretty good in the first place), what with the big reveal at the end of Batman and Robin #16. The developments in the Bat-family would appear add a little bit of extra momentum to the line for the near future. While this week does not see too much direct fallout from Bruce’s revelation (next week’s where the storm starts), it does see some quality ongoing books shipping.
Batman: Return of Bruce Wayne #6
There’s not a lot to say about this book at this point: it’s the culmination of several years of Grant Morrison’s stories, both on Batman and in the DC Universe proper. If you haven’t jumped onboard yet…well, shame on you.
On one hand: yes, it IS irritating that it’s so late. After all, we’ve literally seen the aftermath of this issue’s as-of-yet-unseen conclusion.
On the other hand: the end result of this book was something of a foregone conclusion anyway. You know, the title kind of gives it all away.
And there is something to be said for better late than never. It’s been said before, but when Morrison is on, there’s not really anyone better…and he’s certainly been on in this mini. Frankly, the fifth issue was the weakest of the bunch, and that was simply because there was so much of a “c’mon, c’mon, let’s get this show on the road” feeling by the time it shipped.
Finally, with the new wave of Batman books ready to ship, it’s good to see the light at the end of the tunnel and bring some closure to Morrison’s long-running, elaborate love letter to the Batman stories of the past forty-something years.
Over the past year and some change, Bryan Miller has really done a hell of a job with this book. Stephanie Brown (formerly Spoiler and Robin, currently Batgirl) was a character that, for lack of Chuck Dixon, frequently seemed to be flailing about, searching for a purpose within the Bat-family of books. She had her moments, but she seemed more often than not to play a distant second fiddle to Tim Drake’s Robin and Cassandra Cain’s Batgirl.
But again, all that’s changed since the launch of this new solo book. A case could easily be made that of the previous wave of new titles (Streets of Gotham, Gotham City Sirens, and Birds of Prey), Batgirl has delivered the most consistently enjoyable experience. In contrast to all lot of the other non-core Bat-titles, this book actually has an identity and a character that’s shown actual growth.
Miller has devoted a lot of time to showing Stephanie’s struggles with living up to the Batgirl name, as well as balancing her personal life with her crime-fighting career (she has a very Peter Parker-esque vibe sometimes). In addition, the supporting cast got stronger with the addition of Proxy to the mix, adding a second eye-in-the-sky to partner with Oracle, but keeping the whole “I’m still new to this” feeling intact.
This month, Dustin Nguyen comes on board to handle the art chores and that’s a great thing. Nguyen’s easily one of the best regular artists in this family of books.
Plot-wise, Batgirl kicks off a new two-issue arc this week, so it’s a good place for new readers to hop onboard (like the majority of the Bat-books this month). Stephanie is starting her second semester of college and…wouldn’t you know it…there’s a string of murders.
Birds of Prey #6
From one good Oracle-related book to one…meh…Oracle-related book.
It’s not that Birds of Prey is a bad book or that it’s poorly written or drawn. Certainly not. Gail Simone’s books are always clever, with snappy dialogue and humor that feels natural (which, based on how many people do it badly, must be hard to pull off). And even with guest artists, the book always looks nice.
It’s just that after six issues of the relaunch, the book feels overly familiar in some ways and oddly unfocused in others.
On one side, you’ve got Black Canary dealing with her past and duking it out kung fu movie-style in southeast Asia. Y’know…just like she did before the relaunch. And then you’ve got Huntress and Lady Blackhawk running all over the place, cracking wise at one another and stumbling into brawls unexpectedly as they search for Canary. Again…just like they did before the relaunch.
On the other, you’ve got this whole Brightest Day tie-in with Hawk and Dove…who are apparently members of this book simply because they have bird names. This whole plotline just doesn’t seem like it was Simone’s idea; it feels like DC editorial asked her to carry a plot-thread for them.
In the end, the real problem is that you get better Oracle stories in Batgirl. The version of Barbara in that book is certainly more self-confident and a damn sight more useful.
Again, it’s not that Birds of Prey is bad by any stretch of the imagination. It’s just a book that needs to find its purpose…and soon.
Red Robin #17
With Bruce’s return, Tim is forced to consider how his mentor/father will feel about the plans that he crafted and executed during Bruce’s absence. Specifically, Tim is busting Lynx out of prison. Given the vigilante/gang member’s history with Tim, there’s sure to be a complication or two.
Red Robin is a solid book, artistically and in terms of writing. It’s not the star of the line, by any means, but month in and month out, it delivers accessible, fun stories. There’s no reason to expect that to change any time soon.
Also shipping this week, in the Bat-Universe proper, is the second issue of Paul Cornell’s Knight and Squire. That book will be dealt with, as is the norm, when the trade ships. And for those of you who either have a kid in the house or just enjoy some lighter fare, the first issue of The All-New Batman: Brave & the Bold is also on shelves this week.
On a side-note, the deluxe and facsimile editions of Superman vs. Muhammad Ali also ship. While it’s obviously not a Batman-related book per se, it should be still of note to fans because a) the book’s a lot of fun and b) it’s written by Batman luminaries Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams, with art by Adams, as well as the great Dick Giordano and Terry Austin.
Next week, the hits just keep on coming. We’ve got Batman, Batman Inc., and Batman: The Return anchoring the line, with Azrael, Batman: Streets of Gotham, and another installment of the DC Presents: Batman reprint project.
See you then.