It’s a “good news, bad news” kind of week. The good news is that there are quite a few Batman and Batman-related titles on the shelves this week and they pretty well run the gamut in terms of variety and target audience. The bad news is that the big question on the minds of the comics blogosphere and Batman fans in general seems to be, “Exactly what's going on with the Bat-books lately?"
Books are shipping out of order from their solicitations, crossovers are randomly growing, high profile titles are slipping from the schedule, and others can’t seem to acquire, much less keep, a creative team. There’s reason to suspect that perhaps the promised changes of the aftermath of this summer’s Flashpoint event are the culprits; perhaps DC is simply putting the Batman titles into a holding pattern before they shake things up in the fall.
Batman and Robin #23
Ever since Grant Morrison left this book, it hasn’t seemed to be able to land itself a creative team. Essentially, it’s been saddled with one-arc crews repeatedly. Despite having Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason announced as the “new regular creative team,” Judd Winick is writing (with art by Guillem March) for the bulk of the summer and is then being followed by David Hine and Greg Tocchini. What the hell, indeed…
All the same, it’s hard to complain. Despite being something of a polarizing figure in comics (some folks just love to hate this guy, apparently), Judd Winick has made a name for himself amongst Batman fans for his treatment of the much-maligned and much-less-dead Jason Todd/Red Hood. After a turn in this book when it was under Morrison’s pen, Todd is back in the spotlight, in a story that sees him sprung from Arkham Asylum, only to end up teaming with Batman and Robin against a common foe. Who better than Winick, right? “Anyone,” says the sarcastic Internet. Yeah, yeah, yeah…everyone’s a critic…
Regardless, the preview pages show promise. Guillem March is an underrated talent and Winick has a firm handle on Jason Todd’s “voice,” so it’s a solid buy for this week.
Batman: Gates of Gotham #1
If you sighed and rolled your eyes at the prospect of another Batman mini-series, particularly in light of the staggering number of regular series already being published…well, that’d be understandable. However, Gates of Gotham does have a couple of things going for it.
First and foremost, Scott Snyder is writing it (along with co-writer Kyle Higgins). Whereas Snyder was once associated almost exclusively with American Vampire (for DC’s Vertigo imprint), his standout work on Detective Comics is rapidly causing that book to become a series for which he is equally renowned (and with good reason). Honestly, his name on the cover should probably be enough for you, assuming you’re reading his run on Detective.
If it isn’t, you should also bear in mind the general state of the DC Universe. As was mentioned earlier, a popular thread running around the comics news sites this week is the idea that the DCU is heading for some major changes at the end of Flashpoint (no matter how hard it may be to conceive of a world in which the powers-that-be actually change something connected to Batman, it theoretically could happen). Now, the theory is predicated on the fact that many of the major DC titles just so happen to be wrapping up storylines in August…the same month that Flashpoint ends. What’s the connection to Gates of Gotham, you ask? Simply put, it also ends in August (thanks to some double-shipping) and purports to not only draw together disparate threads from other Bat-titles, but also lay the groundwork for upcoming storylines. Carrying this to its semi-logical end, it’s not illogical to assume that if the rumors about Flashpoint’s importance are true, that Gates of Gotham might serve not only as a sort of early preview of the new status quo, but also provide a lot of the foundation.
Or, it could just turn out to be a cool mini-series with a great creative team about some dark secrets from the history of the most famous city in the DC Universe.
One of the culprits of the current tide of complaining and general unease amongst Batman fans is this book. It isn’t the creative team or the direction of the story; those seem to have been met with an overall feeling of satisfaction, even if no one is exactly screaming its praises from the rooftops as so many are rightly doing with Snyder’s run on Detective Comics. No, instead the unsettled sentiment stems from the fact that the solicitations have in recent months not matched the issues that ship…well, that and the issue of the unasked for and inexplicable disruption of Tony Daniel’s overarching story by a continuation of a plotline from a cancelled book (Azrael) stretching out longer than was originally scheduled.
If the copy of DC’s website actually matches what they put on the shelves this week (which is unlikely, at this point), it’ll be nice to see Daniel’s story get back on its feet. When the disruption began, he was building towards a brewing war in Gotham’s criminal underworld between the Falcones, Two-Face, and the Riddler. Plot threads about all three elements of that equation have been started in this book and others, but have thus far been incompletely developed.
However, if one looks ahead to August, one finds that Daniel is only doing the cover for the book and is replaced on the writing duties and interior art. Fill-in? New creative team? Who knows?
There’s still a plethora of other Batman floppies on the racks. The always-entertaining mix of teen melodrama and superheroics continues in Teen Titans #95, with the team still lost in another dimension of Indian mythology. The deathwatch stands at one month for The Outsiders #39, with Batman arriving next month to shut the book down for good. Plot-wise, we’re nearing the climax of the civil war between Geo-Force and Black Lightning’s teams…but it’s hard to believe that anyone really cares. Superman/Batman #84 sees writer Cullen (The Sixth Gun) Bunn and fan favorite artist ChrisCross taking the title characters into a team-up with the JLA of the future. Lastly, all-ages title Young Justice is out with its fourth issue, with Robin, Kid Flash, and Aqualad saving a woman from a group of assassins…which has got to have Ra’s al Ghul in it somewhere.
The collected side of the aisle is considerably lighter this week, with only two releases. Batgirl: The Flood collects #9-14, where Oracle and Batgirl unravel the mystery of a string of technological suicides. DC Comics Presents: Batman - Dark Knight, Dark City reprints a Batman arc from twenty-something years ago (#452-454) with a story by Peter Milligan and art by Kieron Dwyer.