The shipping list holds basically steady this week, with the always entertaining Teen Titans and two installments of a three-part crossover that evidently grew into four parts with Batman and Gotham City Sirens.

Teen Titans #94

Last month’s issue kicked off the adventure of the entire spring for the Teen Titans. Following up on plot threads introduced in this winter’s Wonder Girl one-shot, the team traveled to the border region between Pakistan and India. There, both Wonder Girl’s mother and the parents of a new hero named Solstice (who was introduced to Wonder Girl in the aforementioned one-shot) are engaged in archaeological studies of the ancient ruins. The Titans arrived last issue due to a distress call from Wonder Girl’s mother, pursuant to the events we saw at the end of the Wonder Girl special, where Solstice’s parents went missing.

Last issue was a well-crafted book. J.T. Krul proves that he must have learned something about writing dialogue during his time working on the set of Seinfeld (that’s not a joke; look it up), as that was one of the strongest points of an already solid issue. Writing teenage heroes is always a balancing act for comic writers, simply because those teenage years were quite some time ago for most of them. However, Krul manages to avoid the missteps that so many others make, such as too much melodrama (to the point that it’s just not believable) or heavy-handed attempts to shoehorn “current” teenage slang into the dialogue. That’s not to say there isn’t melodrama, because there certainly is (Superboy and Wonder Girl’s romantic tension, Superboy and Red Robin discussing leadership roles, Ravager manipulating Kid Flash’s overeager flirtatiousness, etc.); it’s just lightly done and in the proper amount.

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After last week shipped literally one book (and a family emergency dictated this column not appearing), things return to normal with a fine slate of books this week. It’s been said before, but this week is really one of those “something for just about everyone” kind of weeks.

Birds of Prey #11

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Well, it isn’t exactly a blockbuster week in terms of quantity, but three is a decent number and the quality is certainly there. The standout title though is clearly Detective Comics.

Detective Comics #875
It’s rare, one would have to think, to be in the midst of an author’s run on a book and realize that you’re reading work that will, in all likelihood, be considered career-defining somewhere down the road. All the same, here we are in Scott Snyder’s run on Detective Comics and that’s exactly what appears to be happening.

It’s been covered in this column for the past few months now, but just to be clear: Commissioner Gordon’s mentally unstable son James has returned to Gotham City, coincidentally (or perhaps not) at the same time that a new criminal regime appears to be taking shape in and control of the underworld. Oddly, despite first appearing in Frank Miller’s seminal “Batman: Year One” (which ran from Batman #404 to #407, almost twenty-five years ago), James Jr. has barely appeared in the intervening years. What is known is that Barbara Gordon considers it a fact that James Jr. is a murderer…and Commissioner Gordon’s thoughts, shown in flashback during the time that this plotline ran as a back-up story, seem to bear out that assertion. This month, bizarre occurrences abound, as a dead whale is found on the floor of one of Gotham’s largest banks.

Prior to his work on Detective, Scott Snyder was known for American Vampire. No slight mean towards his American Vampire writing, but his run on this book has been amazing. A fair complaint could be made that the book seems light on the superheroic side of Batman (or any side of Batman at all, given the strong focus on Gordon), but let’s keep something in mind here: it IS called Detective Comics, so it seems unfair to criticize it for centering on…well, detective work. Snyder’s writing has a pacing and mood that rivals that of the best prose noir writers. Additionally, one would be remiss to leave out Francesco Francavilla’s artwork, which echoes Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli, a gritty, hard-boiled style that owes as much to its sense of color as it does its linework. Read More...

Well, it’s not the strongest week ever for Batman books, but what it lacks in quantity it (somewhat) makes up for in quality.

Batman #708
This month, the main title in the Batman universe ships and it comes with an odd caveat: this issue just feels (based on previews and solicitations) like a fill-in…even though it’s written by the regular writer.

Last month, new writer (and regular artist) Tony Danielfinished his first arc as the official ongoing scribe of the book. His martial arts-based story was fun, albeit somewhat pedestrian in terms of story. Visually, it was a good-looking book, although that probably shouldn’t come as any great surprise, given that Daniel has come to the writing side of the business late after making his name as an artist. Next month, Batman begins a crossover with two other Bat-titles. But this month, Batman tangles with the Falcones (one of Gotham’s original crime families, complete with ties to Batman’s earliest years) while the scion of that clan, Kitrina (who also dabbles as Catgirl) is considering making a play for control.

It’s an odd follow-up to the story of the last several months, and given that this story by necessity must wrap in a single issue, it’s hard to not think that this one has been sitting in a drawer for a while now, waiting for someone to draw it up. That suspicion is somewhat justified by the fact that Daniel isn’t doing the art; Andy Clarke drew that duty instead. Now, technically, Kitrina is going to be a part of the arc that follows the crossover, so it’s possible that this is the prelude to that story, but…eh. It just feels oddly placed, like DC felt that there couldn’t be a month without Batman. Read More...

Hands down, this is the most forgettable week for Batman fans in the month of March. Literally three-quarters of the ongoing books on the shelves this week have already been cancelled. For two of those three, this is the final issue. The other has one more month to go. So, effectively, the only book that “matters” is Batman Beyond which isn’t even set in the “present” of the DCU.

Batman Beyond #3
It’s almost damning with faint praise, but this is without a doubt the book of the week this time.

Over the past two months, Adam Beechen has woven a solid, entertaining opening story arc for the ongoing Batman Beyond. We’ve had melodrama, as Terry has to balance his love life, family life, and superhero life. We’ve had a creepy new villain, as a disgruntled scientist unleashed a device he didn’t understand, much to the chagrin of a whole mall full of innocent shoppers. And we’ve had friction between Batman and the Justice League of the future that did a nice job of echoing the sometimes contentious relationship the original Dark Knight had with the League of his day.

Finally putting aside their tactical differences to take down a common foe (and in turn rescue Terry’s family, who is trapped in said mall with the aforementioned crazy scientist), the League and Batman crept through abandoned sewer tunnels, showing that some things in Gotham City never change, no matter what time period our story is set (next stop: the Abandoned Warehouse District, located conveniently on the waterfront). Unfortunately, they arrived in the mall finally to found (to paraphrase the Emperor) a fully armed and operational Matter Master.

This month, we get the inevitable throw-down between the heroes and the out-of-control villain and artistic inconsistencies aside, the track record so far suggests that it’ll be a fun read that’s well worth your three bucks.

Batman Confidential #54 (Final Issue)
This book, at least in its final arc, was not cancelled for the absence of quality talent. In this case, it’s being written by Marc Guggenheim and penciled by veteran artist Jerry Bingham. In both instances, we’re talking about creators who are quite good, if not exactly superstars that are known by every comic fan.

At the end of the day though, this book is being cancelled for the same reason that its thematic predecessor, Legends of the Dark Knight, was: a perception, for right or for wrong, that the book doesn’t matter in terms of the ongoing continuity of the character and hence, is not required reading (much less buying). Like LotDK, Batman Confidential has been a rollercoaster of quality, seemingly varying on an arc-to-arc basis. It would be nice to think that the comic book industry is healthy enough to support a book like this, which was essentially a Batman anthology, but it just isn’t. The business as it stands today is, no matter how much fans complain about it, driven by events and a “what’s hot this month” mentality and that means books like Batman Confidential are not going to succeed in the long run (although lasting four and a half years is no mean feat).

Having said all that, it would be a surprise if the end of this book was not met sooner rather than later with the launch of a copycat title, albeit with a different name again. Read More...

There are only three books this week, but the overall level of quality is pretty high. The three titles shipping represent pretty diverse cross-section of the Batman franchise (well, as diverse as Batman books ever get), so there’s kind of something for everybody this week.

Detective Comics #874
DC recently revised its pricing model to much fanfare, re-establishing (after a thankfully brief dalliance with the $3.99 pricepoint) $2.99 as the default price for their ongoing books. Fans were, quite understandably, pleased. However, the move did not come without corresponding cuts to the books themselves. The most significant was that 22-page comic books became 20-page comic books. The other change was much more low-key, affecting only a handful of books: the much-maligned back-up stories, which had been used to justify the $3.99 price for several books, were going away. In the great scheme of things, most fans didn’t seem to mind. The majority of those back-ups were not viewed as actually being the “value added” feature that DC tried to position them to be. On top of that, fans frequently wondered why those that actually did meet their standards were not just released to stand on their own merits; if anything, for some back-ups, being crammed into eight-page installments at the end of a sometimes unrelated title was completely doing them a disservice.

Scott Snyder’s Commissioner Gordon back-up story was guilty of half of that equation. While it was paired with the ongoing title that best fit it (Detective Comics), its existence as a back-up clearly relegated it to a second-class status that was completely undeserved. It was, in point of fact, a compelling and well-crafted noir tale in its own right. Read More...

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. Read More...

Well, it’s apparently Second-Tier Batman Book Week. If you weren’t looking for any of the major ongoing books, but still wanted to drop some cash, this one’s for you. That’s not to say there isn’t any quality in the week (Batman Beyond is a fun book and any week with Neal Adams can’t be a total bust), but it’s a whole lot of books for not much that really…well…matters.

Batman Beyond #2
As far as ongoing titles are concerned, this is the winner of the week. Last month, the Batman Beyond concept returned from relative obscurity (it was popular in its day, but unfortunately faded into the background quite some time ago) with the debut of a new regular book. Adam Beechen’s first story arc kicked off with a very new reader-friendly story: Terry McGinnis, the Batman of Neo-Gotham, is enjoying some much-deserved downtime with his girlfriend, mother, and brother. Unwittingly, his trip to the mall puts him on a collision course with a disgruntled lab technician who has stolen (and somehow absorbed) the wand of the Matter Master, giving him the power to rearrange reality at an atomic level…but not giving him the ability to control that power very well. As Terry and his loved ones meander through a shopping center, this new Matter Master conducts a running fight with the Justice League of the future (complete with updated analogues to several of the JLA’s key members).

The issue ended with a standoff… not between the rookie supervillain and the League, but between the League and Batman. With his family trapped inside the mall (after Matter Master sealed the entrances behind him), Terry can’t risk having anyone close to him getting caught in the crossfire, ending the issue with a defiant Dark Knight staring down the entire League.

One of the strongest points in this new series is that Beechen strikes a pretty good balance between assuming the reader is already familiar with the concept of the book and trying to make it accessible to new readers. The plot clipped along at a nice pace, managing to avoid that tired old trope of having plot exposition masquerade as dialogue, but still quickly explaining the basic dynamic between the main players.
This month picks up where the previous issue left off, with Terry torn between his desire to rescue his family (and his personal desire to join the Justice League) and his need to follow the orders of his mentor, Bruce Wayne (who, in his role as grizzled old veteran, vehemently opposes Terry’s reliance on a team). You can’t go wrong here, folks.

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Any week that Batman Incorporated ships is a good week. Add in a solid finale to the Batman/Detective Comics Annual event and the fact that Paul Dini on a Bat-book is always a positive and you’ve got yourself a pretty good week.

Batman Incorporated #2

Easily the stand-out book of the week, Batman Incorporated #2 picks up right where #1 left off, with that Japanese mystery man Mr. Unknown dead at the hands of Lord Death Man and his henchmen. Luckily Batman and Catwoman are in town as part of the Batman Incorporated initiative that the Dark Knight’s alter ego has established.

When Grant Morrison first took over the direction of the Batman books, he made some remarks in interviews about wanting to return the franchise to the feel it had in the ‘70s, a time when the Dark Knight was not nearly as grim as he has been since Frank Miller redefined the character in the late ‘80s. The Batman of the Denny O’Neill/Neal Adams era, after all, seemed to rather enjoy his nightlife. For much of Morrison’s run, it was hard to see that sentiment.

However, it really shone through in last month’s issue. There was a panel where Batman and Catwoman, the epitome of the on-again/off-again romance, were shown swinging together through the neon-lit cityscape of Tokyo…and while it wasn’t exactly Peter Parker-level of enthusiasm, the shadows of a smile and a good mood seemed to be gracing their faces. Read More...

Batman and Robin #17

There are fill-ins and then there are fill-ins. On one hand, it’s never a pleasant thing for a book’s creative team to be reshuffled. On the other, it’s hard to be too irritated when the replacement team is just as talented as the one that was originally scheduled.

That’s the case on Batman and Robin this week. Originally a Peter Tomasi/Patrick Gleason book, scheduling issues have seen Paul Cornell and Scott McDaniel’s three-issue arc swap places with it.

Cornell has been attracting a lot of attention with his work on DC’s other flagship character (Superman, via Action Comics) and deservedly so. His work there has had a narrative thread that connects that overall run together without losing the “you can pick up any issue” quality that great comics so frequently have. Visually, Scott McDaniel brings a very fluid, action-oriented style to the book. Read More...

Last week’s Batman line-up ended on a great note, with Return of Bruce Wayne finally concluding. While the book did have some “uh…what?” moments, overall it was cool to see Morrison legitimately tie together so many threads stretched out across so many titles for so many years. Additionally, the reunion of Bruce Wayne to adopted son and true believer, Tim “Red Robin” Drake (or Wayne) was emotional without seeming schmaltzy; it was actually cheesy and clichéd in a good way, if you can believe that.
This week is where the new era in Batman books officially begins.

Batman: The Return

The key book of the week is this one-shot from mastermind Grant Morrison and artist David Finch (who is taking over a Bat-book of his own shortly).

As one might expect, this issue deals solely and directly with the fallout of Bruce Wayne’s return from the “dead.” His own mini covered the journey home, Dick and Damian worked their end of the mystery in their own book, Tim handled the legwork in Red Robin, the entire Bat-family had their moment in The Road Home…and now, at long last (and out of sequence), Bruce Wayne is officially and openly back in the DC Universe.

As DC puts it in the solicitation copy, this special will bridge the gap between what has come before and the new direction that’s taking off this month.

If you’re only picking up one book (which would be crazy with a ship week this good), this is the one, folks. Read More...

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. Read More...

By Matt Martin

You will rarely see a lighter week, as far as regular books go, than this one. With only two monthly titles shipping (and only one actually “in continuity”), pickings are looking mighty slim.

Batman & Robin #16

In just a week, all the griping about the tardiness of Return of Bruce Wayne will be over. However, for now, we get the next best thing: Grant Morrison’s final issue of Batman & Robin, a book that’s effectively been the companion piece to that Bat-Universe’s big event of 2010.

Batman & Robin #15 ended on a note that was so…effing…cool. Justifying this column’s previous claim that no one is better than Morrison on his A-game, the penultimate issue (in both the arc and Morrison’s run) ended in an action movie-style moment (with big grins from Dick and Damian as Bruce, back in costume and looking to kick ass, lurks unseen until the final splash panel of the issue) that would have felt cheesy and cliched from a lesser writer.

So this month, we get the natural conclusion: the showdown. With three generations of Bats fighting together in the Wayne family crypt against an impostor that sought to ruin the family’s standing in Gotham forever, we’re bound to have some bombastic action. At the same time, the Road Home mini ended with Dick and Damian unaware that their father-figure/father had returned, so here’s hoping Morrison makes time for that as well (there are 40 pages this time, so there’s a good chance of that). Read More...

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