Published: 2004-2005 Written by: various Art by: various
DC Comics, 515 Pages
This is one of the giant Batman sagas I hadn’t yet read. So I was pretty stoked to pick it up but ultimately, I was left pretty disappointed, as it’s slow, dry and honestly, not that exciting.
Being that I am a fan of Stephanie Brown a.k.a. Spoiler, I did like her parts in this, as it is a major turning point for her character and because it helped to fill in some of the blanks I had with her character’s development. I really dug the hell out of her time as Batgirl before they took it away from her and gave the identity back to Barbara Gordon.
This collection doesn’t feel much like a large cohesive story. There are plot threads that stretch the duration of the book but it is mostly a few short arcs stuffed into a massive volume to collect the tales of the era.
I guess the main common thread is that this mostly focuses on combating Gotham City’s street level crime but this book sort of just sets the stage for what I assume will be a more action heavy second book.
For the most part, I liked the art but some of the stories felt like a waste of time. But I guess I’ll have to see how things play out in the second and final volume of this “saga” before being too harsh.
Rating: 6/10 Pairs well with: other Batman stories of the late ’90s and early ’00s.
Published: 2005-2006 Written by: Geoff Johns Art by: Phil Jimenez
DC Comics, 241 Pages
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.
Published: November 22nd, 2017 – December 18th, 2019 Written by: Geoff Johns Art by: Gary Frank, Brad Anderson Based on:Watchmen by Alan Moore
DC Comics, 456 Pages
Well, Doomsday Clock has finally ended! This twelve issue series wasn’t supposed to stretch out for over two years but it did. I’m glad that I didn’t start reading it until it was over, as I would’ve forgotten all the details due to the delays and the dozens of other comics I would’ve read between each issue.
Now that it’s all out, I finally read it: binging through it in two days.
I guess my first thoughts on it are that it is underwhelming and that it doesn’t justify its need to exist.
I had always been against new Watchmen stories without the involvement of Alan Moore. My mind changed, however, when I read some of the Before Watchmen stories from a couple years ago.
They made me see Watchmen the same way I see other comic book properties and that’s as a sort of modern mythology that is told and retold by countless others, each bringing something new and unique to the table. Superman and Batman have had countless writers and many of them have evolved and grown the character in great ways beyond their original concept. Granted, some writers have gravely failed too.
Generally, I like Geoff Johns’ work, so I wan’t against the idea of him tackling the Watchmen property.
Ultimately, though, this took too long to come out, especially with how sloppily put together it feels.
This is one of those stories where it feels like a lot happened but also like nothing happened.
It tries to merge the Watchmen universe with the DC universe but it doesn’t work. But I’m also over the crossover trope of using inter-dimensional portals or a superbeing that basically acts as a super-dimensional portal. That being said, I don’t know how else to bring these universes together but that also makes me ask why they had to try it in the first place?
Watchmen is very much its own thing, as is DC. Hell, Marvel is also its own thing in that same regard and whenever they tried to crossover Marvel and DC, which happened multiple times, it always felt forced, clunky and weird.
The only real highlight of this was seeing how certain characters from different universes would interact with one another but honestly, none of it was as cool as I felt it should have been and it all felt pretty pointless and made me realize how bad the Rebirth era of DC Comics has been – well, for the most part, as I liked some titles in the last few years.
In the end, this doesn’t feel any different than one of any of the dozen indie publisher crossovers that pit Green Lanterns against Ghostbusters, Ninja Turtles, Transformers, Star Trek crews or the apes from Planet of the Apes. While those crazy crossovers are neat to a point, they’ve been done to death in recent years. And despite this being better written and having better art than the other franchise mashups, it feels like DC Comics were really late to the party and didn’t even realize that it was over.
Rating: 6/10 Pairs well with:Watchmen and the Before Watchmen stuff, as well as just about everything under the DC Rebirth banner.
Published: November 20th, 2019 Written by: Sean Murphy Art by: Klaus Janson, Matt Hollingsworth, Sean Murphy (cover)
DC Comics, 56 Pages
I had no idea that this was coming out until I saw it on the shelf at my local comic shop. I’m glad it did though, as I’ve been digging Sean Murphy’s White Knight stuff, as they are the bestBatman stories written in the last few years.
This story exists in Murphy’s Batman universe, which is separate from regular continuity. I’m totally cool with Murphy’s continuity because the regular continuity has pretty much been ruined by the depressed, mid-life crisis having Tom King.
While this story doesn’t even feature much of Batman at all, it focuses on Mr. Freeze, his relationship with his father, his future wife Nora and his family’s past during their time in Nazi Germany.
I wasn’t sure how much I’d like this little side quest story in Murphy’s mythos but man, it was a damn compelling read, pretty emotional and it had me hooked immediately and kept me glued to every single page of this beefy one-shot.
Unlike Murphy’s other White Knight related books, he didn’t do the interior art. Those duties went to veteran Klaus Janson with Matt Hollingsworth on colors. This is some of my favorite art Janson has ever done. It also fits well with the now familiar visual style of Murphy’s. If Murphy ever gets so busy writing and needs someone else to handle art duties, I think Janson would be a good partner, assuming he maintains the tighter style that he employed here. And that’s not to knock his other work but this just looks like he really handled the art with great care.
Von Freeze is damn solid and worthy enough to stand next to Sean Murphy’s other Batman work.
Rating: 8.5/10 Pairs well with: Sean Murphy’s White Knight and Curse of the White Knight.
Published: March 15th, 2011 Written by: Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka Art by: Michael Lark
DC Comics, 241 Pages
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.
Release Date: July 19th, 2019 (SDCC) Directed by: Justin Copeland Written by: Ernie Altbacker Based on:Batman: Hush by Jeph Loeb, Jim Lee Music by: Frederik Wiedmann Cast: Jason O’Mara, Jennifer Morrsion, Geoffrey Arend, Jerry O’Connell, Maury Sterling, Rebecca Romijn, Rainn Wilson, Sean Maher, Peyton List (I), Peyton List (II), Vanessa Williams, Tara Strong
Warner Bros. Animation, DC Entertainment, 81 Minutes
“Riddle me this – “The less of me you have, the more I am worth”… what am I? Answer – A Friend.” – The Riddler
The DC Comics animated films are really hit or miss for me.
Mostly, I enjoy them but there are usually things that don’t click in the right way or the films claim to be adaptations of a famous story but then take tremendous liberties and are really only those stories in name only. Look at Gotham by Gaslight for an example of that.
For the most part, this takes a lot of liberties while still holding on to the spirit of the original Hush story.
The biggest difference here, is that Hush is not Thomas Elliot like in the comics but is actually someone else. Thomas Elliot appears in this film but he’s just a red herring. I won’t spoil the plot and tell you who Hush is though but I thought it was worth mentioning for those who would prefer a beat-by-beat adaptation.
I thought that the animation was some of the best DC has had, thus far. A lot of care was given to the character design, the actual motion in the film, as well as the visual tone.
The film also benefits, in my opinion, by not being cast with more well-known stars. Sometimes famous voices can be distracting in these films. Here, the main characters weren’t played by famous distinct voices. The more famous actors who were in this actually just blended in nicely and didn’t detract from the proceedings.
Overall, this is in the upper echelon of DC’s animated features. It’s not perfect but it’s definitely got a lot more positives than negatives.
Rating: 8.5/10 Pairs well with: other recent DC Comics animated movies.
Published: April 5th, 2016 Written by: Scott Lobdell Art by: Denis Medri, Paolo Pantalena
DC Comics, 141 Pages
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.
Published: April 10th, 2019 – June 12th, 2019 Written by: Peter J. Tomasi Art by: Brad Walker, Andrew Hennessy, Nathan Fairbairn, Max Raynor
DC Comics, 110 Pages
Be forewarned, I can’t really get into this without spoiling parts of the plot, as well as the Arkham Knight video game.
When I first heard that the Arkham Knight was being introduced into the comic book continuity, I was really excited, as I love the Arkham video games and especially loved the Arkham Knight game.
However, I also wondered how they would do this, as the Arkham Knight was revealed to be Jason Todd, the Red Hood and once former Robin. Jason Todd certainly couldn’t also be the Arkham Knight in the comics, so I knew it would be a different person altogether. I just didn’t have an idea as to who it was and what their backstory and motivations would be.
I’ve been a fan of Peter J. Tomasi’s work over the last few years, so I had high hopes that he’d give us something compelling with this. But sadly, I was a bit let down.
The Arkham Knight in the comic book continuity is the daughter of Jeremiah Arkham, the head of Arkham Asylum. Her birth name is Astrid and she appears in Gotham City with the Knights of the Sun, an order of her own creation. They are a group motivated by their ideals, as opposed to material gain like many of Gotham’s more famous criminals.
Her backstory sees her born in Arkham Asylum during a riot. The Joker, along with several other famous inmates, deliver her amongst the chaos of the riot. Her mother is killed during the riot by one of Batman’s batarangs, which was thrown by one of the Arkham inmates.
Astrid, as a kid, used to interact with a lot of the Arkham inmates and through that, developed her hatred of Batman. She learns that one of his batarangs was the instrument that killed her mother and her hatred intensifies. Ideally, she wants to take control of Gotham away from Batman.
The story then has her use a really weird superweapon that is basically an artificial sun, which is to reveal Batman as a demon to the citizens of Gotham. Batman and Robin are able to stop her before she uses her sun to permanently blind everyone in the city. However, she escapes and will go on to fight another day.
The story started out fairly well but it took so many strange turns that it pulled me right out of it and I just found myself rolling my eyes with every new reveal. That’s not to say that Astrid Arkham won’t develop into a cool character but the backstory is a mess. From the Joker delivering a baby to a fake sun superweapon, this was a bizarre story that just didn’t work for me and certainly didn’t deliver in the way that the Arkham Knight video game story did.
I was hoping for something more akin to the game that saw Gotham fall into a total state of decay with gangs running the city, police hiding in their precincts and Batman taking to the streets to fight a sea of gang members, high tech tanks and a plethora of supervillains.
Honestly, this could have done that and been the basis for a solid major event.
Rating: 6.75/10 Pairs well with: most of the recent regular Batman comics.
Published: August 14th, 2018 Written by: James Tynion IV Art by: Freddie Williams II
IDW Publishing, DC Comics, 151 Pages
With the huge success that was the Batman and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crossover, you knew a sequel was imminent. In fact, there’s a third series, currently being published, and an animated film has also been released.
I think that this story was a bit better than the first one. I’ve really liked James Tynion’s work on Detective Comics over the last few years, as well as Justice League Dark, and he was the natural choice for merging the Bat and Turtle franchises.
It’s very apparent that Tynion has a passion for these characters and they all just sort of mesh really well together unlike other crossovers that seem forced or are penned by someone who may have a passion for one franchise but not both.
I also like that Freddie Williams II returned to do the art again. I think it really fits the tone of the book.
The plot here is better than the first corssover. It focuses on Bane taking over the Turtles version of New York City. Batman, Robin, Batgirl and Nightwing all show up to lend a helping hand. Eventually, the heroes have to free Shredder from prison and use him to give them an edge over Bane, who now controls the Foot Clan, along with Bebop and Rocksteady.
In the end, I can’t call these classics but they are pretty fun reads. I wasn’t a huge fan of the first one but this arc is better paced, feels more organic and Tynion has found his footing better than the initial outing.
I can’t wait to read the third one, once it’s been collected.
Rating: 7.75/10 Pairs well with:Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 1 and 3, as well as other recent TMNT crossovers.
Published: 1993-1994 Written by: Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon, Alan Grant Art by: various
DC Comics, 643 Pages
I really loved the first book in this series. However, this one was a big drop off from the events of the first.
The main reason is due to Batman not being in this book until the very end. This was the ’90s and Azrael was Batman and he was a walking ’90s cliche in the worst way possible. For a fan of what Batman is and what the spirit of his comics are, this doesn’t fit that mold.
Now I get that this “breaking of the mold” schtick was intentional, it just doesn’t make for good reading outside of a decade where violent antiheroes were the norm. I understand why people are nostalgic for this huge mega event that spanned a year or so but I didn’t read this when it was current and I’m looking at it with fresh eyes.
The fault doesn’t necessarily fall on the writers as there are things I enjoy about the writing but Azrael is such an unlikable asshole, which he’s supposed to be, that I want to see him fail and I can’t cheer for him. But being that he is the star of this saga, at this point, really bogs the overall tale down.
Plus, I hate his costume, it’s hard on the eyes, completely nonsensical and where are the other heroes in the DC universe that wouldn’t let this guy operate like a maniac. Doesn’t Tim Drake have Superman’s phone number? Robin is just sitting around waiting for Bruce to come home? Why doesn’t he talk to Gordon about it and develop a plan to bring in the Justice League?
I think that this also suffers from a complete lack of Bane, who was defeated at the end of Book I. I guess I had always assumed that Bane as a threat stretched across all three giant books in this saga.
This installment is also mostly devoid of villains that we know and care about. It’s as if new villains were brought in to establish a new generation of rogues for Azrael to face but they all mostly fall flat and weren’t really seen again or in any significant way after this lengthy epic.
In the end, Bruce Wayne comes back to Gotham and is disgusted by how his legacy has been handled by his hand picked successor. So hopefully the third book gets things back to form. But at the same time, why in the holy hell did Bruce Wayne choose Azrael to be the next Batman? His track record before this was shit.
Anyway, I’m hoping that the third and final book rights the ship.
Rating: 6/10 Pairs well with: the other books in the Knightfall saga, as well as pretty much any Batman story from the ’90s.