Comic Review: Detective Comics, Vol. 4: Deus Ex Machina

Published: December 26th, 2017
Written by: James Tynion IV, Christopher Sebela
Art by: Carmen Carnero, Raul Fernandez, Alvaro Martinez

DC Comics, 121 Pages

Review:

I mostly enjoy James Tynion’s writing. He does a pretty good job with this series, even if it isn’t wholly my cup of tea because I’m not a fan of large Bat-Family groups. I like Batman working solo or with one or two other close allies.

But I still like Tynion’s run on Detective Comics enough to keep reading it, so there’s that.

I think I am mostly drawn in to the Clayface stuff because I actually like seeing him trying to redeem himself and work on the right side of the law.

While Clayface isn’t the focal point here, though, we do get to dive deeper into Azrael’s world. Now he’s a character I have a love/hate relationship with. But in this series, so far, I mostly like him and this chapter wasn’t any different.

This also puts some focus on Zatanna, who I was happy to see pop up, even for one volume. More importantly, this gives us some good backstory to her and Batman’s relationship, going back to their teen years when Bruce was trying to train under her father.

Overall, this was a quick, energetic read that added some new things to the plot and also served to strengthen the bond between this team of characters.

Most importantly, this brought Stephanie Brown a.k.a. the Spoiler back while also dropping hints that Tim Drake a.k.a. Red Robin was possibly still alive.

In the end, I like where this volume went and it ended in a way that makes me want to see what happens next.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other collections of James Tynion IV’s run on Detective Comics.

Comic Review: Detective Comics, Vol. 3: League of Shadows

Published: October 10th, 2017
Written by: James Tynion IV
Art by: Fernando Blanco, Christian Duce, Marcio Takara

DC Comics, 165 Pages

Review:

This was a better volume in James Tynion’s Detective Comics run than the previous one. However, it’s really overcrowded with characters that mostly don’t connect for me.

I’m sorry but no matter how hard DC tries to push Orphan and Batwing, they’re just not that great. I don’t even really like Azrael that much, despite his popularity amongst many. And now that Spoiler is gone, I really only give a shit about Batman and Clayface.

In fact, Clayface is the most interesting character in these stories but he doesn’t get enough focus. I hope that changes, as I work my way towards the end of Tynion’s run.

This story is kind of a generic League of Shadows tale where Shiva is in charge and trying to screw with Gotham. Ra’s al Ghul does show up and his appearance severely effects Orphan but this all felt pretty forgettable.

I feel like this should’ve dealt more with the fallout after losing Spoiler and the death of Red Robin but it’s more focused on Oprhan’s mommy issues and Batwoman’s daddy issues.

All that being said, the art is f’n great!

Ultimately, I like Tynion but his Detective Comics run is pretty meh, if I’m being honest.

But I’m also a person that prefers Batman working alone or with just one or two people, preferably a Robin or Batgirl.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other collections of James Tynion IV’s run on Detective Comics.

Comic Review: Batman Arkham – Clayface

Published: August 15th, 2017
Written by: various
Art by: various

DC Comics, 318 Pages

Review:

I’ve read a bunch of these Batman Arkham collections and I’m glad DC Comics is still putting one out a few times per year. If you remember those old collections like The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told or The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told, these are similar and are always focused on one character: a Batman villain.

Now I say that these are focused on one villain but this installment is a bit different, as it features Clayface, which there have been multiple versions of over the years and all of them are pretty unique.

What I really loved about this is that it gives us the first appearances of every Clayface in regular Batman canon. Hell, it even gives us the story of the Mud Pack, which was a villain team comprised of multiple Clayfaces.

The Clayface that most people are familiar with is the original, Basil Karlo. He was the one featured in Batman: The Animated Series in the ’90s and has monopolized Clayface’s comic book appearances since.

However, I loved seeing all the different versions here. My favorite story and now my favorite Clayface is the third version a.k.a. Preston Payne. I knew of him but never got to read his debut until now. His look and armored suit were badass and his story was fantastic thanks to the great Len Wein. As much as I like Karlo, I’d love to see Payne make a real comeback.

Overall, this was a pretty cool collection. Most of these are stories I’ve never read but they also gave me better clarity on the bizarre history of the Clayface moniker.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Other Batman Arkham collections, as well as Clayface-centric stories.

Comic Review: Detective Comics, Vol. 2: The Victim Syndicate

Published: May 16th, 2017
Written by: James Tynion IV, Marguerite Bennett
Art by: Eddy Barrows, Alvaro Martinez, Ben Oliver

DC Comics, 142 Pages

Review:

I’ve liked James Tynion’s Batman work and I also liked the volume before this that set things up. However, I was not digging this story at all.

It’s not that it’s bad or that there weren’t some interesting ideas here but it didn’t resonate with me and this new villian team called The Victim Syndicate just seemed like generic, throwaway, one-off baddies.

Also, this story happens in the wake of Red Robin’s death and it shows how Spoiler, a former Batgirl, deals with this loss. Frankly, I’m wasn’t happy with how her character was handled, as it felt like a major and uncharacteristic regression when compared to who she was by the end of her Batgirl run.

And while I’m not a big fan of Batman having a large Bat-Family, I do like how he’s been working with Batwoman in this series, as well as how Clayface has evolved into a character that is trying to be heroic and looking for redemption.

This volume is a mixture of good and bad. I think the good slightly outweighs the bad and even if I didn’t like the story, it wasn’t boring or dull and I still got through it with hope that the next volume in Tynion’s Detective Comics run would be a better one.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: other collections of James Tynion IV’s run on Detective Comics.

Comic Review: Red Hood/Arsenal, Vol. 1: Open for Business

Published: April 5th, 2016
Written by: Scott Lobdell
Art by: Denis Medri, Paolo Pantalena

DC Comics, 141 Pages

Review:

I was a fan of Scott Lobdell’s work on Red Hood and the Outlaws, so I figured I’d go backwards and read his short-lived Red Hood/Arsenal series that takes place just before the formation of Red Hood’s Outlaws team with Artemis and Bizarro.

Also, with the recent death of Arsenal and Red Hood having to deal with it and process it, I wanted to get more context to their friendship.

This was a good read, a pretty energetic story and it does do a lot to show you how special Red Hood and Arsenal’s relationship is. It also channels back to events that effected them before this story. And maybe I’ll have to go back further and read those too.

However, this wasn’t as good as the Red Hood and the Outlaws stuff that followed. While both are written by Lobdell, the more recent (and still ongoing) series has just a bit more depth to it.

This collection is the first of only two in this series and while this one serves to set things up, upon finishing it, it doesn’t feel like there is much to look forward to, as the series seems to present itself as something with more longevity than just one more arc. And maybe that longevity was intended to be the Outlaws series but I know that I’ll probably want more of Red Hood and Arsenal than just this small sample size. Especially, now knowing what Arsenal’s fate will be down the road.

If you like Red Hood stories though, this is probably worth your time. It’s hard to judge it though, as there is one more volume after it and maybe I should have just read both as one body of work.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Red Hood and the Outlaws.

Comic Review: Batgirl: Stephanie Brown, Vol. 2

Published: March 20th, 2018
Written by: Bryan Q. Miller
Art by: Lee Garbett, Pere Perez, Ramon F. Bachs, Dustin Nguyen

DC Comics, 327 Pages

Review:

This has been a really cool series and although I’m a massive fan of the Barbara Gordon version of Batgirl, Stephanie Brown is a really lovable character that has earned her way to wearing the cowl made famous by the original Batgirl.

Now this volume wasn’t as good as the first and sadly, it’s the last volume in the series, as it fell victim to DC Comics rebooting everything, which they think is necessary every few years now.

Anyway, I still enjoyed this collection of issues, which were mostly a string of 2-3 issue arcs but I think that the first one was more appealing and a better read because it focused on the new Batgirl proving herself and her value.

At the start of this one, she’s accomplished that and even has the real Batman rooting for her. The thing is, that takes away some of the tension in the plot and the drive within the character. It’s that old adage about how the journey is better than the destination.

Now the destination is fine and it is cool seeing Stephanie Brown becoming more confident and stronger but the thing I liked about her was her defiance against those trying to keep her down. Now she’s pretty much loved by those same people and even though the story needed to evolve towards that, it’s just missing it’s edge.

But truthfully, this could have very well picked up into something exceptional and this volume feels like that’s on the verge of happening but the series was cut off with the end of this book.

Stephanie Brown deserves to be Batgirl, she really earned it and it was fun experiencing her journey but DC wanted Barbara Gordon back and Stephanie got downgraded back to Spoiler, which seems like a real slap in the face by her intellectual property owners.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the volume before this one.

Comic Review: Batman: Arkham Asylum

Published: 1989
Written by: Grant Morrison
Art by: Dave McKean

DC Comics, 220 Pages (25th Anniversary version)

Review:

I bought Arkham Asylum in 1989. I was ten years-old but the first Tim Burton Batman movie had just come out and I was buying Batman comics like they were fresh hotcakes and I had a serious case of the munchies. By the way, no one batted an eye at a ten year-old buying a comic like this in 1989.

Anyway, at ten years-old, this shit was totally over my head. As a forty year-old, this shit is still totally over my head. I’m not saying that it’s tough to absorb, it’s just batshit crazy (pun intended) and reads more like Grant Morrison’s nightmares than a coherent or worthwhile Batman comic book.

While I really am in awe of Dave McKean’s art, it just doesn’t resonate with me in the way that I feel it should. I’m not keen on his character design, even if I like the overall style. But this book looks like Batman and his villains trapped within the pages of a Nine Inch Nails CD booklet from 1994. My teenage self probably saw that as cool but my older self thinks it is a weird mashup that doesn’t really fit no matter how dark you try to make Batman appear.

Getting back to the story, it is a mess. Morrison is a good writer when he’s focused and has more real estate to tell a story. For instance, his run on Doom Patrol was strange as hell but over the course of that lengthy run, there is a glue that binds it all together in a neat way. Maybe if Arkham Asylum was an intro to a larger story, it could have spread its wings and flew. But honestly, the story feels stifled and confined like the inmates in the Asylum itself.

Also, Batman does not feel like Batman here. But then neither does the Joker or Two-Face. As far as these characters go, Morrison misses the mark. But he was young when he wrote this and maybe he sacrificed character continuity for trying to be a hip edgy boi. I hate to say it but this feels like edgy boi bullshit.

This isn’t a total waste though. It certainly is a work of art and it helped steer Morrison’s career in the direction it needed to go. Plus, his Batman stories a decade and a half later were damn good.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: Grant Morrison’s runs on Batman and Doom Patrol.