Comic Review: Batman: White Knight

Published: October 9th, 2018
Written by: Sean Murphy
Art by: Sean Murphy

DC Comics, 224 Pages

Review:

Spoiler alert: this gets a perfect score.

The reason why this gets a perfect score is that you just don’t read comic book stories this great anymore. It almost feels as if we don’t deserve something this good in this day and age. And, I guess, one could say that maybe its greatness is magnified by an industry that is struggling to put out exceptional work but I don’t think that it is. I think that White Knight, regardless of what era it came out in, is a true masterpiece of the comic book medium.

Sure, time will tell how this holds up over the years but I don’t need time to tell me that this most certainly will be held in the same regard as Batman classics The Long HalloweenThe Dark Knight Returns and Year One. In fact, I would say that this beats two out of those three.

Sean Murphy weaved a tale that exists in its own continuity but at the same time, he wrote a Batman story that was respectful to the franchise and all the characters within it. I love when someone can find a way to utilize all the major villains and Murphy did just that, without having this become a convoluted mess. His idea in how to include them all here was actually kind of genius.

This also does a fine job in breaking down the dichotomy that is Batman and the Joker and asks the question, “Is there even a dichotomy?” Delving deeper than just that, this examines the Joker, Batman and Harley Quinn’s psyche in new ways that really make this book smarter than the average bear while making these old characters feel fresh. Basically, Murphy found a way to explore these well-known characters and brought something new and intriguing to the table.

Finishing the story, it’s hard to pinpoint who the big bad is here. Is it the reformed Joker? Is it Harley pulling strings? Is it the new villain: Neo Joker? Is it Batman? Is it the GCPD? Is it Gotham City itself? There is a lot to interpret here and there isn’t a clean answer any which way you could go.

Murphy also gives back a lot of fan service in including certain characters from other mediums and beloved Batmobiles of yesteryear, among other things. But it’s never fan service just to get brownie points, he created the right sort of situation where all of it just works really well.

I loved the idea of the GTO (Gotham Terrorist Oppression Unit) and how Nightwing and Batgirl were used. I loved how the story worked for the entire Bat-family, especially the stuff regarding Alfred. All the Mr. Freeze material was also wonderful. There is just so much to digest and dissect here but all of it is good.

Sean Murphy also did the art and I loved his work. All in all, this really is his creation and it’s a damn fine creation at that.

This limited comic series is pretty close to perfect. There’s nothing I would change or alter about it and frankly, I want to read it again.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: the best of the best classic Batman stories: The Long HalloweenDark VictoryYear OneThe Dark Knight Returns, etc.

Comic Review: Aquaman/Suicide Squad: Sink Atlantis!

Published: August 8th, 2018 – September 19th, 2018
Written by: Rob Williams, Dan Abnett
Art by: Jose Luis, Vicente Cifuentes

DC Comics, 128 Pages

Review:

Did you ever want a crossover that features the Suicide Squad and Aquaman? Well, you’ve got one! And while it didn’t start off all that strong, it ended up being a lot of fun and I enjoyed this short four-issue crossover.

The story takes place in Suicide Squad issues 45 and 46, as well as Aquaman issues 39 and 40.

The Suicide Squad team is a bit different after a key member has died, as well as a slight roster shakeup. The important members in this story are Harley Quinn, Deadshot and Killer Croc. We also get Lord Satanis, who ends up being a villain with his own agenda. On the Aquaman side, we get action from him and King Shark. Mera is also heavily involved in the story.

The real highlight of this entire event though, is the battle between Killer Croc and King Shark, a fight I never knew I wanted.

For the most part, this turned out better than the first issue led me to believe. The story was a bit weak and the threat, while somewhat large, was perpetrated by a very minor villain that most people won’t even remember.

I thought the art was good and most of the dialogue was decent.

Now had Harley become Queen of Atlantis, that would have been more entertaining.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: The Suicide Squad and Aquaman story arcs that led up to this.

Comic Review: Dark Nights: Metal

Published: June 12th, 2018
Written by: Scott Snyder
Art by: Greg Capullo

DC Comics, 204 Pages

Review:

I didn’t read this as it came out. I also was much more frugal about how much I spent on comics at the time. I’m less frugal now, as I’m spending more time reviewing them. And to be honest, while this is $30 for the collected edition at my local comic shop, I found this on a brief Comixology sale for $5.99. So at that price, I figured I’d give it a go. If I ended up really liking it, I would’ve gone back to buy the single issues. But I didn’t really like it all that much. I’ll explain.

To start, I typically like Scott Snyder’s writing, especially in regards to anything with Batman in it. As far as Greg Capullo goes, he is one of my favorite artists of the last few decades. So seeing them reunite for this was definitely a selling point, even if what I knew about the project’s story didn’t peak my interest.

The biggest problem with Metal is the same problem with most mega events in comics, it is chock full of so many characters that the plot loses fluidity and the story seems to placate more to wedging in as many cameos as possible, as opposed to keeping the train on the rails.

This wasn’t a bad idea for a story but it should have been kept fairly simple. People just kept showing up on nearly every page, though, and it becomes distracting. New twists and turns are thrown in as often as characters and this just loses its focus. It also introduces a whole horde of villains, most of whom will just be one-offs in this story anyway. But this reads more like a sketchbook than a coherent story. What I mean by that, is that this feels like Capullo trying to fit in every cool design that he wasn’t able to wedge into Spawn throughout his run on the book in the ’90s.

Another thing I didn’t like was how wordy this was. While there are good action scenes, sometimes these characters felt like they weren’t surrounded by villains but instead, were surrounded by word balloons, trying to wedge their way into the panels and asphyxiate the characters. The word balloons were the real villains of the story. At least, that should be a twist whenever this gets a sequel.

I did like how the ending looked into the future as a way to tell you what stories would be coming out from DC Comics over the following year. But, at the same time, this was disappointing to some degree, as a main reason why I picked this up was to see the introduction of DC’s “New Age of Heroes”. I always see mentions that this is where they debuted but their appearance here is limited to one panel where we see into the future.

Anyway, this at least kept my attention over the six issues, even if they felt like twelve due to the dialogue and having so much detail to drink in. I wouldn’t say that this is a waste of time and I can see where this will be a lot of people’s cup of tea. It just wasn’t my cup of tea, really. But I also don’t regret reading it simply because I liked seeing Capullo have fun and get really creative with the art and character design.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Any other DC Comics mega event of the last decade or so.

Comic Review: Suicide Squad: Constriction

Published: May 9th, 2018 – July 11th, 2018
Written by: Rob Williams
Art by: Eduardo Pansica, Julio Ferreira, Adriano Lucas, various

DC Comics, 103 Pages

Review:

I haven’t read a Suicide Squad comic in awhile but the idea of Batman teaming up with Deadshot peaked my interest. I’ve also liked DC Comics much more than Marvel, as of late, and their titles that deal with former or reforming villains have been really solid. The other comics I’m referring to are Deathstroke and Red Hood and the Outlaws and maybe even The Silencer fits in there, as her backstory doesn’t paint a heroic picture.

The premise for this is great. Batman breaks Deadshot out of Amanda Waller’s prison. The two then go on a road trip in an old pickup truck in an effort to stop a snake cult that has abducted Deadshot’s daughter. Also, the Suicide Squad is in hot pursuit. What’s not to love?

I liked the art and the character design in this arc. I also thought that the story was well-written and it made some good connections between the characters of Batman and Deadshot. Mainly, Batman, whose son was raised by a cult, doesn’t want to see the same fate befall Deadshot’s daughter, who the Kobra cult are trying to use to be a vessel for their dead leader.

Amanda Waller is pissed about the prison break and knows Batman was involved, even though there is no proof of it. She unleashes Harley Quinn, Captain Cold and Captain Boomerang to bring him in dead or alive.

My only real complaint is how the comic portrays Harley. She is made to be a dumb character for comedic effect and while I don’t blame this specific writer, I blame DC for downplaying her actual intelligence all the time. It was fine for Batman: The Animated Series but in the comics she shouldn’t be a goofy caricature. The Joker is a clown but he’s not an idiotic buffoon, he’s super intelligent and that makes him scary and formidable. This version of Harley Quinn would never be put on some special forces task force used by the government. I mean, she doesn’t even know the difference between a helicopter and a submarine. I haven’t really read anything with Harley since the DC Rebirth started but I had hoped that she was more like her live action film counterpart and less like her cartoon version. It’s time to make her something better than DC’s version of Squirrel Girl. I mean, she was a professional psychologist for fuck’s sake.

But moving on!

This was an entertaining and badass read. I hope this means that Deadshot is going to continue down some sort of path to redemption. DC is doing this with Deathstroke and I like how that’s gone so far. I wouldn’t mind seeing Deadshot also evolve into a character that isn’t just a throwaway assassin type to toss randomly into a story whenever one is needed.

After reading this arc, I had Suicide Squad added to my pull list at my comic shop. So we’ll see how it goes moving forward. But if the quality dips too far below this, I’ll cancel it and move on.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: The current runs on Deathstroke, The SilencerRed Hood and the OutlawsNightwing and Batman.

Comic Review: Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 1

Published: July 25th, 2017
Written by: James Tynion IV
Art by: Freddie Williams II

IDW Publishing, DC Comics, 176 Pages

Review:

When this was first announced, I got pretty excited. But at the time, hunting down single issues of comics was hard for me, as my closest comic book shops are both 45 minutes in opposite directions. So I planned on waiting for it to be collected in a trade paperback format.

I mean, who doesn’t want to read a team up of Batman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? On top of that, who doesn’t want to see Batman fight Shredder? Yeah, because that’s just about all I could think about when I first heard that this crossover was happening.

You get more than that though. You also get to see Shredder team up with Ra’s al Ghul and several Batman villains get exposed to mutagen and thus, turn into TMNT styled animal villains. The Penguin obviously becomes a penguin but my favorite was Mr. Freeze as a polar bear. You also get to see Casey Jones show up about midway through the story arc.

Overall, this was a lot of fun. I heard that the follow up wasn’t as good but I’ll read that once it’s complete. I think there are still issues coming out for that sequel run.

This comic is really just fan service done really well. It’s not an exceptional story but it doesn’t need to be. It just needs to take these two franchises and smash them together and let everyone loose.

One of the highlights for me was seeing Alfred interact with Michelangelo. That shit was comedy gold.

I can’t call this a great book but if you love both franchises this is certainly worth your ten or fifteen bucks.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 2 and other recent TMNT crossovers.

Comic Review: Batman Arkham – Man-Bat

Published: January 31st, 2017
Written by: various
Art by: various

DC Comics, 296 Pages

Review:

Having read several of these Batman Arkham collections, I have been inspired to read and collect them all. I love historical anthologies that feature stories about a single character, spanning decades from creation to the most modern incarnation. Like all the other books in this series, this one featuring Man-Bat starts off with a bang. But then things went off the rails for me.

It has been a really long time since I’ve read them, but the earliest appearances of Man-Bat were incredible and those issues of Detective Comics where he first appears are some of the best Batman stories of the early ’70s.

Following that stuff, this book features the first two issues of the ’70s Man-Bat comic, which I have never read. Yes, Man-Bat had his own starring title, albeit short-lived.

We then get into the ’80s where we see a more modernized version of the character’s origin. But as is the problem with some of these collections, we see more variant origin stories than we do just cool tales featuring the character outside of rehashing their beginnings.

As we get into the ’90s stuff, we are treated to the good writing of Chuck Dixon, whose IDW G.I. Joe stuff I loved in the late ’00s and early ’10s. While his tales are engaging the blatantly ’90s art style is incredibly hard to look at and really ruins those stories. They are a visual mess and unpleasant to look at. The pencils and ink are done to the extreme with thick lines and too much detail. It’s like Man-Bat needs a billion creases all over his body and to be covered in nonsensical shadows that defy any real lighting source. And everything just looks overly grotesque to the comic’s supreme detriment.

When we get into the stories from this millennium, we are treated to another rehash of Man-Bat’s origin.

For the most part, I liked this collection because the high points are damn good. As the book rolls on, however, you’re taken on strange, ugly rides. Maybe there just isn’t enough Man-Bat material to make a collection work.

The first third of this collection is great. It’s just a lot less engaging by the time you reach the late ’80s stuff and onward. The final story, which was made very recently, was a step up from the ’90s stuff but it didn’t serve much of a purpose.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Other Batman Arkham collections.

Comic Review: Batman Arkham – Poison Ivy

Published: September 13th, 2016
Written by: various
Art by: various

DC Comics, 312 Pages

Review:

I love these Batman Arkham collections and I’ve read four of them before this one but had to take a break to read some other comics for awhile. So far, there are about ten of these collections: all at around 300 pages.

This collection featuring Poison Ivy was the next one on my list, as I have read plenty of her stuff since the late ’80s but never really got to indulge in her earliest stories before she became really popular in the early ’90s due to how great she was on Batman: The Animated Series.

This starts with her earliest stories and works its way up to more recent ones and is organized chronologically by the publish date.

The early stuff for her isn’t as old as some of Batman’s better known villains. Her first appearance was actually in 1966 around the same time as the Adam West Batman television show. This is probably why she was never included on the show alongside Batman’s most famous rogues.

Her origin tale is pretty good but she isn’t quite the character that she would become. In fact, her origin is rehashed in a few of the different stories collected in this big volume of tales. I do like the older Ivy stories and really enjoyed the one that saw her face off with Wonder Woman, as opposed to Batman, but it’s the later stuff that really made this book for me.

Once we get into the mid-’80s, we see a darker and more serious take on the character. Her story where she comes off as a reformed victim, only to be laying traps for those that wronged her is damn good. It’s also a two-parter and takes up sixty pages or so of this collection.

Everything beyond that is also pretty solid. The editor did a nice job selecting key stories out of the large collection of Poison Ivy tales that have been told over the years.

This is a good collection and frankly, I love that DC is finally releasing books like this for the Batman rogues that have a long enough history to fill up 300 pages.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: Other Batman Arkham collections.