Comic Review: Batman: The Black Mirror

Published: October 8th, 2013
Written by: Scott Snyder
Art by: Jock

DC Comics, 295 Pages

Review:

So this takes place when Dick Grayson was still Batman. That whole era gets screwy in my head and even though I’m a massive Nightwing fan, it’s like my brain blocks out that he was ever Batman, until I come across one of those stories and it jars me back into that strange stretch of reality.

This was written by Scott Snyder for Detective Comics before he would go on to his solid run in the main Batman comic.

So this is pretty damn dark, even for a Batman comic but I liked it quite a bit, as Snyder gives us some new villains, very different situations and also links these multiple stories together quite well.

While “The Black Mirror” story is just about the first third of this collection, the other tales build off of it and maintain the same tone.

My favorite part of this was the story about Commissioner Gordon’s serial killer son and whether or not he was truly “cured”. I’ve always liked this character and how he fucks with the heads of Jim Gordon and Barbara Gordon, whether she’s Oracle or later on when she went back to being Batgirl.

The art in this was distracting at first but I adjusted to it pretty quickly and liked how well it added to the brooding atmosphere of these stories.

Batman: The Black Mirror is weird for me because it takes place during Dick Grayson’s Batman stint and I think this would’ve been better with Bruce Wayne in the story. However, it’s still a neat collection of really dark tales and it helped set Snyder on the right path for his career.

Rating: 8.25/10

Comic Review: Nightwing, Vol. 1: Blüdhaven

Published: December 9th, 2014
Written by: Dennis O’Neil, Chuck Dixon
Art by: Greg Land, Scott McDaniel

DC Comics, 286 Pages

Review:

As big of a fan of Nightwing, as I am, I had never read his earliest solo comics. I wanted to right that injustice and I probably should’ve done it a long time ago, as the stories, here, are written by two greats: Dennis O’Neil and Chuck Dixon.

This collection of issues starts with the original Nightwing miniseries. In that story, we see our hero travel to a foreign land to topple a sadistic dictator that may have had a hand in his parents’ deaths. This story was damn good and I liked how gritty and hard it was. Dennis O’Neil kind of gave the series a similar tone to the ’90s Deathstroke comics, which I’m a huge fan of.

Beyond that, we get the first few story arcs in the regular Nightwing series. In this stretch of issues, we get the work of Chuck Dixon, who was coming off of writing some of the best Batman stories of the era. And with that, he knew a lot about the Dick Grayson character and Batman, which he utilized really well in establishing Nightwing’s motivations and while exploring his relationship with his mentor as well as Tim Drake, his mentor’s new sidekick a.k.a. the third Robin.

In the Dixon stories, we learn about Black Mask and Blockbuster’s criminal dealings in Nightwing’s new home, Blüdhaven. We also get a major fight between Nightwing and Blockbuster, which serves to really setup this series going forward.

This isn’t just a collection of solid stories, it also boasts some incredible art. This book looks very ’90s but it looks like the best of the ’90s and isn’t overloaded with over-the-top cheese like some of the comics from the first half of the decade.

This was just a hell of a fun and cool comic. It definitely has me hyped to read the volumes that follow.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other ’90s Nightwing and Batman comics.

Comic Review: Batman: The Complete Hush

Published: October 8th, 2013
Written by: Jeph Loeb
Art by: Jim Lee

DC Comics, 298 Pages

Review:

Batman: Hush is highly regarded as one of the best Batman stories of its era and honestly, it doesn’t disappoint. I hadn’t read it for over ten years but after recently watching the animated film adaptation, I wanted to give the source material a read again.

I’m happy to say that this lived up to my memories of it, as it’s just a great, well-layered story, where even if you figure out the big mystery, it doesn’t wreck the plot because there are so many surprises still woven in.

This features a lot of characters from both sides of the law but it doesn’t become bogged down by it and everyone truly serves a purpose with how they’re all tied to the main plot.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that this is good, simply because Jeph Loeb wrote it and he teamed up with the great Jim Lee, who provided some of the best and most iconic art of his career for this tale.

Hush is a solid comic book on every level. Saying too much about the plot might ruin things and this is a book that I definitely recommend. I’d rather people read it and discover its greatness for themselves.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other major Batman story arcs from the late ’90s and early-to-mid ’00s.

Comic Review: Batman: War Games: Book Two

Published: 2004-2005
Written by: various
Art by: various

DC Comics, 628 Pages

Review:

While this does read better than the first volume in this two part epic series, it is still kind of a mess in that it jumps all over the place and doesn’t seem to follow any sort of logical narrative path. In short, it’s hard to follow and it’s not all that exciting to begin with.

I’m not sure why some people have made a big deal about the War Games epic. Sure, most of the art is solid and I mostly like the parts written by Ed Brubaker but this is such a mixed bag as a total package that the low points and drastically different art styles just pull you right out of the story.

This is overloaded with characters, which typically isn’t a bad thing for a large Batman story. However, this reads more like a massive DC mega event in that it’s so overloaded that there isn’t anything that one can fully connect to. Even if you’re interested in a certain plot thread, sometimes you get distracted for a really long period of time before coming back to it.

This was pretty poorly organized and executed.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other Batman stories of the late ’90s and early ’00s.

Comic Review: Infinite Crisis

Published: 2005-2006
Written by: Geoff Johns
Art by: Phil Jimenez

DC Comics, 241 Pages

Review:

I hated Crisis On Infinite Earths but I had hoped that this more modern version of it would’ve been more to my liking. I guess it is better but not by much because it falls victim to the same bullshit.

It’s overloaded with characters to the point that it’s difficult to follow and it just becomes a mega clusterfuck, trying to be larger than life while wedging a fuck ton of characters into double splash pages.

DC likes doing these big events that try to “reset” the multiverse and all they do is become overly complicated messes that ignore their own established rules because new writers don’t have time to read the old stuff or pay attention to it. In Geoff Johns’ defense, the event this is a spiritual sequel to was a convoluted shitstorm, so I don’t blame him for paying it no real mind.

If I’m going to try and look at the positives, there is really only one: the art by Phil Jimenez. It’s spectacular and it is lively and even if I don’t enjoy the story, it’s hard not to get caught up in the absolute beauty of Jimenez’s work. It’s stunning and even on those overcrowded splash pages, he fills the space magnificently and dynamically.

Apart from that, there’s not much to say. This isn’t as messy as its predecessor but it is still an over-sized shit meatball.

Rating: 5/10 – because of the art more than anything else.
Pairs well with: other massive DC Comics events that are overloaded with characters.

Comic Review: Batman: Arkham Knight – Genesis

Published: 2015-2016
Written by: Peter J. Tomasi
Art by: Viktor Bogdanovic, Dexter Soy
Based on: the Batman: Arkham Knight video game by Rocksteady Studios, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

DC Comics, 138 Pages

Review:

For those who have been around this site for awhile, you know that I loved the Batman: Arkham video game series, especially the final installment: Arkham Knight. I also really loved the Arkham Knight character even though he was a twist on a different well-known character. That being said, reading a comic book prequel to the game was right up my alley.

This was in my stack for a long time but I finally got around to it. In fact, I think I bought this at least two years ago. I have a really large stack, especially if you take into account my queue on Comixology.

Anyway, this was mostly okay but it was pretty drab overall. It shows the early planning before Arkham Knight takes over Gotham City but it didn’t give me any real info that I didn’t have already. At least, nothing that made this worth going out of your way to read. The game’s story is rich enough and this just felt like more of a cash-in attempt, banking off of the game’s popularity than it did a well thought out and executed story deserving of existing on its own two feet.

The highpoint is the art. Viktor Bogdanovic and Dexter Soy do stellar art in general but this book looked great from cover to cover.

I wish that I could say, “If you love the games, this is a must-read!” but it’s not. It’s okay, it exists. I guess you could read it if you’re interested but it’s not going to make the story from the game any better.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: the game it’s connected to: Arkham Knight, as well as the other Arkham video games. Also, the Detective Comics story Medieval, which features a different version of the Arkham Knight character.

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.