Comic Review: Gotham Central – Book One: In the Line of Duty

Published: March 15th, 2011
Written by: Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka
Art by: Michael Lark

DC Comics, 241 Pages

Review:

Gotham Central is a comic book series that I have heard nothing but praise for since it started back in 2002. I never read it but I have now read a lot of Ed Brubaker’s crime comics, as well as Greg Rucka’s Stumptown, which has a similar tone and style.

Since I am a fan of both writers’ crime stuff, as well as a Batman fan, I figured that giving this a read was long overdue.

What’s cool about Gotham Central is that it primarily focuses on the police officers on the Gotham City Police Department with very little involvement from Batman. Hell, this first collection doesn’t even feature Commissioner Gordon. I’m not sure if he comes back to the fold by the end of this series but so far, no Gordon in the GCPD.

While Brubaker and Rucka get this series started with a bang, Brubaker stepped away after the first arc, giving Rucka control of the series’ narrative.

There are two big tales in this. The first being about the GCPD trying to take down Mr. Freeze without the aid of Batman, the second being about Renee Montoya’s being forced out of the closet and into a murder frame up plot by Two-Face.

I actually didn’t realize that this was the series where Montoya was first depicted as a lesbian. I actually thought it was before this but having never read that story, it was handled pretty well and I liked the way it played out, why she was outed to her colleagues and family and then how it all came to a head in a surprising and twisted way.

This was pretty good top to bottom. I don’t know if I’m as enthused about it as many others were but I at least want to read the second volume to see how this series plays out over a larger sample size.

While it deals with some heavy shit for a standard DC comic book, I wouldn’t say that it gets as dark and messed up as Brubaker’s other crime stories. I’d say this is actually closer in tone to Rucka’s Stumptown series.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the other three books in the Gotham Central series, as well as Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka’s own crime comics.

Comic Review: Batman Arkham – Killer Croc

Published: June 28th, 2016
Written by: various
Art by: various

DC Comics, 291 Pages

Review:

Killer Croc is a Batman villain that I have dug since I first read a story with him in it in the late ’80s. I’m glad that he has had staying power and is now pretty close to being an B+ level villain in the Batman and larger DC mythos.

This collection, like the other Batman Arkham villain compilations features a dozen or so stories focused on this specific character, all from different eras with a slew of different writers and artists.

But in the case of this book, that kind of hurts the overall compilation.

Now most of the writing is good with stories by Chuck Dixon, Doug Moench, Gerry Conway, Tim Seeley and others. It’s the big style variance in art that damages the overall presentation.

The problem is that most of the stories featured here are from the ’90s. At the time, DC Comics had a lot of artists that experimented with a lot of different art styles. Most of the stuff here looks like ’90s indie stuff that is trying way too hard to be edgy and extreme. A lot of it comes off like massive eye sores and the strong contrast in style from chapter to chapter is kind of jarring. But this is a compilation and these things happen when you’re wedging a dozen or so stories into the same book.

However, this collection also brings to light one of my biggest gripes about the Killer Croc character and that’s that everyone draws him differently. Sometimes he’s just a jacked dude with scaly skin and other times he’s the size of the Hulk with an actual crocodile looking head, snout and all. I’ve never been a fan of his inconsistent look and some of these artists go too wild with it.

Being mostly a product of the ’90s we also get some over the top violence in one story in particular, which sees Killer Croc literally chomp a woman in half. While that stuff doesn’t bother me, it seemed out of place in the book and just reminded me of a time when DC Comics seemed like they were trying too hard to fit within what they thought were the times.

I did enjoy this collection, despite my gripes about it. They could only work with what they had in their library but I can’t believe that some of these are considered the best Killer Croc tales. Maybe someone needs to step up and do the character some justice, treat him with care and give us something with more meat.

I also found it odd that none of his Suicide Squad stuff was here, as some of those stories really build up the character in interesting ways.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Other Batman Arkham collections.

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: Batman: The Dark Prince Charming

Published: 2017
Written by: Enrico Marini
Art by: Enrico Marini

DC Comics, 136 Pages

Review:

While not specifically labeled an Elseworlds tale, that’s what this is, as it is Enrico Marini’s take on Batman and the Joker with its own twists that don’t exist within the normal DC Comics continuity.

In this world, Batman apparently fathered a little girl after a one night stand. The Joker kidnaps the girl, thinking that he can blackmail Bruce Wayne into bidding on a fancy gem that Harley Quinn wants. Man, the story sounds really stupid now that I’m typing it out.

Overall, the plot is lame, not all that engaging and this seems to fit so far outside of the box of who these characters are that I couldn’t wrap my brain around it.

Hell, Jim Gordon is even seen vaping in this.

There is also a lot of humor thrown in but most of it isn’t funny and the jokes fall flat, immediately.

I’m not sure what the tone of the book is supposed to be as it feels all over the place.

However, I did enjoy the art. Marini has a cool style, even if he took some liberties with the looks of the characters.

I’m all for new creatives taking on the Batman mythos and doing their own version of it. It worked incredibly well when Sean Gordon Murphy did it with White Knight. However, here, it just feels like some edgy boi bullshit.

The art saves this from being a complete waste though.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: other Elseworld tales featuring Batman.

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.

Comic Review: Joker

Published: 2008
Written by: Brian Azzarello
Art by: Lee Bermejo

DC Comics, 130 Pages

Review:

When this came out in 2008, I thought it was pretty badass. It hasn’t aged well though.

But I guess my changed feelings on it now is because I’ve aged as a comic book reader and the character of the Joker just doesn’t feel right in this. Also, the plot is very thin and this mostly just follows a regular guy who finds himself pulled into the Joker’s orbit on the day that the criminal madman is released from Arkham Asylum.

I know that this came out at the same time as 2008’s The Dark Knight and that it was made to capitalize off of that highly anticipated movie. In fact, the actual look of the Joker here, is much more in tune with Heath Ledger’s Joker than the regular comic book Joker.

The story does not tie to the movies though and it exists within Brian Azzarello’s own version of the Batman universe. But in an era where comic book franchise constantly get rebooted, what the hell is canon anymore?

I do like the art style and the character design is good for most of the key characters. Although, the look of the Riddler is more cringe than the current Tom King Riddler, who I absolutely hate.

Reading this now, this just feels like some edgy boy shit that’s trying too hard to be hardcore and extreme but never actually has the balls to cross the line like DC Comics did at the height of its classic Vertigo titles.

I think that this story ties into Azzarello’s current Batman: Damned series but I’m not 100 percent sure on that, as I’m waiting to read that series once all the issues come out.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other Brian Azzarello comics, especially the recent Batman: Damned series.

Comic Review: Batman: Knightfall, Book III

Published: 1993-1994
Written by: Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon, Alan Grant
Art by: various

DC Comics, 645 Pages

Review:

Well, I should start this by saying that Knightfall, Book III was much better than Book II but it still wasn’t on the level of the vastly superior Book I.

Azrael is still Batman at the start of the story but Bruce Wayne comes back to claim the title and eventually outwits Azrael, exposing him as a total wackadoo. This surprisingly happens in the first third of this thick collection of issues. But I was fine with that, as Azrael’s horribly designed ’90s extreme cliche of a costume was hurting my eyes and my logical brain.

The second third of this book follows the aftermath of the massive Knightfall storyline while the last third of the book is a storyline called Prodigal.

I really liked the aftermath and Prodigal stuff, as even though Batman takes the mantle back, he then leaves and gives the reigns over to Dick Grayson, the original Robin and current Nightwing. Seeing Grayson as Batman with Tim Drake still as Robin was a neat experiment and was fun to read for fans of both of those characters.

There is a pretty large story involving Two-Face within the larger Prodigal crossover event and that was the highlight of this collection for me. But we also get good bits with Killer Croc, who hadn’t been seen since Bane broke both of his arms, and the Ventriloquist. I also enjoyed the Catwoman stuff.

Knightfall, Book III really salvages the gigantic epic after Book II kind of shit the bed. And in the end, I’m glad that I committed to reading the nearly 2000 pages of the Knightfall saga.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the other books in the Knightfall saga, as well as pretty much any Batman story from the ’90s.