This week is easily the biggest of the month for Batman fans. Rest assured, you will not be starved for choice when you make a trip to the shop today: all of the ongoing books that ship are either consistent performers or in the midst of a very solid story arc, so you just can’t go wrong this week.
Batman and Robin #20
Certainly the most important book of the week is this one, as it features the slightly-delayed debut of the new regular creative team (transplanted from Green Lantern Corps), Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason.
The text preview on DC’s website is understandably low-key; Tomasi’s run on GLC was very well-received, as has been his work on Emerald Warriors, so his taking the reins on what has become the third flagship book of the Batman franchise is something of a big deal. If Tomasi’s in for the long haul, they certainly don’t want to spoil any of the fun.
His first arc deals with the arrival of a new player on the Gotham crime-fighting scene, the White Knight. All of DC’s marquee characters have at least one villain whose M.O. is essentially to be the backwards version of the hero (Sinestro to Green Lantern, Lex Luthor and Bizarro to Superman, Reverse-Flash to the Flash, etc.) and while Batman has several of those already, there’s always room for another, particularly as it sounds that the White Knight has a religious extremist bent to him and that’s something Batman is light on in the villain department.
Having said that, that same text makes it seems somewhat obvious that this run was originally intended to have begun some months ago, as it references Bruce Wayne’s return as if that were a new phenomenon. All the same, there’s no reason to think Tomasi’s run will be anything less than a fun ride, so it’s definitely the pick of the week.
Birds of Prey #9
While the opening arc of Birds of Prey’s relaunch meandered a bit, drifting in too-familiar territory (Black Canary going rogue, fighting martial arts bad guys in Southeast Asia…again), the follow-up story, “Death of Oracle,” has been quite solid. Gail Simone’s writing chops should never be doubted (if they are, please see Secret Six for further proof of her knack for unpredictable super-powered action), but all the same, it’s nice to see the book somewhat back to form.
When last we saw the Birds, they had gone somewhat off the playbook, improvising as Dove, Black Canary, Huntress, and Lady Blackhawk were confronted by a trio of Calculator’s henchmen, including a villainess whose very touch sends its recipient into a spiral of internal turmoil, reliving their most painful moments and running an emotional gauntlet. As the issue closed, despite the impromptu team-up with Batman (which came at the end of a quick-but-touching moment where Bruce actually LISTENED to Barbara for once, demonstrating again how much he’s changed since his return to the DC Universe proper), Black Canary was beginning to feel the effects of that poison touch.
This month, in the penultimate issue of the story arc, Black Canary confronts her inner demons…and goodness knows she’s got plenty of them. No one knows the character better than Simone, who can be credited in no small amount for Canary’s popularity and rise from relative obscurity over the last decade or so. It looks to be a winner, folks, even in a week this rife with quality.
Month in and month out, this column sings the praises of Bryan Q. Miller’s Batgirl…and there’s no reason to stop now. The book is in the midst of a bit of a run of self-contained, single-issue stories right now and that’s rarely a bad thing. This month, Miller gets all topical/sentimental, with a Valentine’s Day issue. Normally, holiday issues are something of a contrived mess, to say nothing of the fact that they (for obvious reasons) don’t hold up well to re-readings.
However, Miller has so consistently cranked out entertaining stories that you almost can’t help but look forward to this one…particularly as it features a broken-hearted Klarion the Witch-Boy, which should be a blast, and a killer who is stealing people’s hearts (not sure how literal that one will turn out to be; could go either way, honestly).
Red Robin #20
Like Batgirl, Red Robin is a book that consistently delivers and doesn’t get nearly its share of credit for doing so (so consider this a small effort towards balancing those scales). It’s always fun and thankfully manages the sometimes-Herculean task of balancing continuity between issues with the need to be accessible to new readers. Possibly best of all, it (like Batgirl) is pretty all-ages-appropriate.
Last month, Red Robin shut down billionaire industrialist and burgeoning supervillain Viktor Mikalek’s access to the Unternet, a communications network and shared hallucination of sorts for villains (created by Dr. Sivana and subsequently modified/corrupted by Darkseid). Mikalek had been using it to further his goal of ensnaring villains to his cause and to shut down his access, Tim had to leave behind a portion of the consciousness of his friend and ally, Lonnie Machin (the former Anarky).
This month, however, Mikalek strikes back, sending Catman to obtain the codes to Machin’s security systems so that his access to the Unternet can be reconnected. Naturally, this is something Red Robin cannot allow and a good old-fashioned throwdown is going to ensue.
Notably, this issue serves as the interlude for the two-part crossover between this book and Teen Titans (which should be great, given Tim’s status as the former leader of the team and his ally/rival Damian Wayne’s new-found membership with the group), so it’s reasonable to assume that the groundwork for that storyline will be laid here as well.
Also shipping this week is Batman: Brave and the Bold #4 and Knight and Squire #5. From the non-Batman portion of DC, be sure to pick up the first trade paperback of John Ostrander’s legendary run on Suicide Squad: it’s been a long time coming and it’d be a shame to see it slip away now that it’s finally being brought back in print. Fans of Gail Simone’s Secret Six should take particular note, as that book is the spiritual successor (to say nothing of some shared characters) to Suicide Squad.
Next week, unsurprisingly, things take a step down when Batman, Detective Comics Classics, and The Outsiders all ship. See you then.