Comic Review: Batman: A Death In the Family

Published: 1988
Written by: Jim Starlin
Art by: Jim Aparo, Mike DeCarlo, Adrienne Roy

DC Comics, 142 Pages

Review:

A Death In the Family was one of the biggest Batman stories to happen around the time that I was getting into comics as a serious reader and not just a casual one, who just occasionally picked up stuff other than G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.

When I was in elementary school, this is a story that all the kids talked about and I remember trading my hardcover copy of Arkham Asylum for this and The Killing Joke. I felt like I definitely won in that trade and it’s mainly because of this story.

I was the rare Jason Todd fan. Sure, nowadays other people like him because of how he came back as the Red Hood and carved out his own legacy. Before that, however, people pretty much hated Jason. I think I mainly liked him because he was Robin when I started paying attention and I saw through him being a prickish pain in the ass and knew that there was something deeper inside him that was needing to come out. The problems Jason presented Bruce/Batman with were different than Dick Grayson’s, the original Robin. He simply made things more interesting, as you knew his attitude and temperament would somehow come to a head in a big way.

While I love this story and I really liked how it altered the Batman series going forward, I always thought that Jason died too early and that they missed out on exploring him more. I guess that’s why I really gravitated towards his stories when he finally did return, nearly two decades later.

In regards to this story, it’s exceptionally well written and presented with great care and a respect for the character, even though the fans called a hotline and actually voted for Jason Todd to die.

This is still one of the best, all-time classic Batman stories ever written. It also has great art by Jim Aparo.

I liked that this takes things out of Gotham City and that the story is kicked off by Jason Todd discovering that his biological mother is out there, somewhere. He goes in search of her and while that’s happening, The Joker is off selling a missile to a Middle Eastern tyrant, which brings his story and Jason’s crashing together in a tragic and emotional way.

Jason does find his mother but what he finds with that costs him his life and turns Batman into someone that wants vengeance against The Joker for what he did to the child that Batman was supposed to raise and protect.

This is a pretty heartbreaking story that has stood the test of time and is still emotional, even if you are aware of what actually happens to Jason Todd after his death.

If you are a fan of the Caped Crusader and haven’t read this, you probably should.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other Batman comics of the late ’80s/early ’90s, as well as the early Red Hood stories from the ’00s.

Comic Review: Red Hood: The Lost Days

Published: June 28th, 2011
Written by: Judd Winick
Art by: Jeremy Haun, Pablo Raimondi

DC Comics, 145 Pages

Review:

I went into this with zero expectations but I’ve got to say, I was pretty enthralled with the story and it didn’t just fill-in the blanks between Jason Todd’s death and his reappearance as Red Hood but it gave so much extra context and meaning to the character.

Additionally, I loved how this tied into the Hush story arc and serves to set the stage for that epic tale while also leading into the Under the Hood plot, which saw Jason Todd come back into Batman’s life in a pretty badass way.

I wouldn’t read this story first, though. I’d save it for last because even if it is a prequel, I think it’ll read better with the knowledge obtained from the other two stories. Also, this might spoil those stories if you haven’t read them.

From  beginning to end, this was really engaging and it added new layers to Jason Todd’s redemption arc. It shows how he struggles with his new reality and how he is used and exploited in an effort to become a weapon against Batman. However, it also shows how well the character can adapt and how he doesn’t follow the paths that others have tried to lay our for him.

Additionally, the art in this was really good and it just added an extra sizzle to this already wonderful steak.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the other early Red Hood stories, as well as his solo titles of the last few years.

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: Deathstroke, Vol. 4: Family Business

Published: December 20th, 2016
Written by: James Bonny, Phil Hester, Christopher Priest
Art by: Tyler Kirkham

DC Comics, 157 Pages

Review:

This is the conclusion to the Deathstroke run that happened before DC’s Rebirth. This series started with Tony S. Daniel writing and doing the art. However, this finale was written by James Bonny, who came in at the end of the previous volume.

Even with a change in writers, this stayed consistently good throughout and it helps bring a satisfying end to the story of Slade Wilson trying to rebuild his relationship with his children Rose and Jericho.

This picks up right where the previous volume ended, as it ended on a cliffhanger.

This also features a subplot with Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Assassins, who involve themselves in Slade’s war with Lawman, Snakebite and Victor Ruiz. With Ra’s, we are given a big plot twist, as he’s always got deception up his sleeve. Both Ra’s al Ghul and Deathstroke leave this story with their lives but it sets up a real blood feud between the two villain heavyweights.

There are also cameos by Red Hood and Batman. The Clock King shows up in the last issue collected in this volume, which is actually the first Deathstroke issue of the Rebirth era. Needless to say, this ends leading right into Christopher Priest’s lengthy run on this character.

In the end, I really liked this series a lot, even more so than Priest’s, which I found to be mostly great.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the rest of the 2014-2016 Deathstroke run, as well as the Christopher Priest era that followed.

Comic Review: Deathstroke, Vol. 3: Suicide Run

Published: August 16th, 2016
Written by: Tony Salvador Daniel, James Bonny
Art by: Tyler Kirkman

DC Comics, 136 Pages

Review:

Man, oh, man. I’ve really been enjoying the hell out of Tony S. Daniel’s Deathstroke run and it may be my favorite run on the character since his solo series debut back in 1991. But honestly, I find these stories to be even more fun than those and I like how the personality of Deathstroke has changed over the years and especially, how he’s presented in this series.

Deathstroke is still a badass, cold mercenary but he’s become driven in an effort to find his missing daughter and to try and fix their relationship.

I also like that he was made younger and how that kind of freshens him up and gives him extra vigor.

Additionally, I really like his interactions with Harley Quinn throughout this series, as she’s the version of the character I like best. She’s not a goofy female wannabe Deadpool, as she’s become in recent years, and she’s more of a broken yet clever person, playing everyone in the story in a way that benefits her. Plus, she’s also pretty badass too.

While this volume does end on a cliffhanger, I didn’t mind that, as this has been so good, I’m going to read the fourth and final volume, regardless. But at the same time, even with a cliffhanger, this is a good self-contained story that’s broken out into two parts: the first sees Deathstroke raid Belle Reve, where he has to fight Suicide Squad members and the second, which sees him fight Red Hood and involves a major double cross that sets up the finale.

From the writing to the art, this is solid from top to bottom. It’s a great run on the character and even though I loved Christopher Priest’s run that followed, it didn’t have the same sort of energy and pace.

If you are a fan of the character, you should probably check out the entire Tony Daniel run from 2014-2016.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the rest of the 2014-2016 Deathstroke run, as well as the Christopher Priest era that followed.

Comic Review: Crisis On Infinite Earths

Published: 1985-1986
Written by: Marv Wolfman
Art by: George Perez

DC Comics, 359 Pages

Review:

Crisis On Infinite Earths is one of DC Comics’ sacred cows. Yet, I’ve never had much urge to read it because my experience reading massive DC Comics crossovers has never been that great.

But now I have read it because I felt like it was long overdue and because this is a storyline that is referenced a lot, still to this day, thirty-five years later.

The first problem with this story might be apparent by the number of tags at the top of this post. It’s overloaded with so many characters that it is mostly a convoluted clusterfuck of biblical proportions.

In fact, this post may be the record holder for the number of tags I had to add to it. And frankly, that’s not all the characters, just the ones I know because two-thirds of the characters here are generic one-offs or so minute to the DC universe that they aren’t worth noting.

Now I know that some people love the splash pages from this series, as they showcase dozens (if not over a hundred) different characters all in one giant image. If I’m being honest, I’ve always disliked them and they are why I never really wanted to read this. Most of the action is minimal and many of these scenes are just characters standing around. They lack the energy that a splash page needs and look more like they belong in a Where’s Waldo? book. And I don’t say that to come off as a dick because I almost always love George Perez’s art. This just seems like DC management telling Perez to squeeze in as many characters as artistically possible. It’s hard on the eyes and it’s shit.

Another big problem with this twelve issue story arc is that every moment feels larger than life. Well, when everything is so big and grandiose, that becomes normal and status quo. You can’t possibly go bigger and with everything being so big from start to finish, none of it is memorable. It’s just a busy, stressful read without allowing the reader to catch their breath and reflect on what’s happened. It’s kind of like a Michael Bay movie. Throw so much intense shit at the audience, don’t let them stop and think and they’ll just move from point A to point B to point C and so on, forgetting everything that happened two points prior.

This event was made in an effort to sort of reset the DC universe. Honestly, all it does is make a giant fucking mess of things and splatters the mess all over everything it touches.

The plot doesn’t make sense, I’m not sure what exactly changed and with so many universes crashing together into one, it’s not properly organized and then re-established in any sort of way that a reader can follow. If this was supposed to be a jumping on point for readers in 1986, I don’t know how they made sense out of any of it and then knew which characters to follow.

The main reason for the previous sentence is that this is so overloaded with people that you don’t get to really know any of them. There is no character development and this is written in a way that it assumes the reader knows all about every character in the story. For a seasoned comic book reader like myself, who has been reading comics for three and a half decades, I was lost and didn’t know who half of the low tier characters were.

Crisis On Infinite Earths should have been written as a Justice League story with some inclusion of the Fawcett Comics characters and the Golden Age DC heroes. All the third tier and lower characters could have made cameos but even then, they don’t really need to.

I really hoped that this was going to pleasantly surprise me but it hurt my head.

It was too much, too big and too long.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: mid-’80s DC Comics titles, as well as all the other massive DC crossover events.

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: Batman Arkham – Penguin

Published: September 4th, 2018
Written by: various
Art by: various

DC Comics, 241 Pages

Review:

As I’ve stated just about every time that I’ve reviewed one of these Batman Arkham “best of” collections, I love these damn things. Each one focuses on a specific villain from Batman lore and, for the most part, collect the best stories from all eras of Batman comic book history.

Now while I did enjoy most of this volume, I can’t honestly say that these are the Penguin’s greatest hits. Some of the stories here were kind of drab and just from memory I came up with about a half dozen that were better than the ones collected here.

However, I think part of the problem is that they want to cover all the eras and most of the great Penguin stories I’m thinking of are from the ’70s and ’80s.

This still does a good job at showcasing the character and giving fans a peak into how he’s evolved over the years as times change and new writers have come and gone, most of them leaving their imprint on the character.

In the end, this is worth adding to your collection if you’ve also been buying every volume. However, I wish that DC would come up with a better and beefier collection to honor the longevity and greatness of this 79 year-old character.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: Other Batman Arkham collections.

Comic Review: Doomsday Clock

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

Review:

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.

Comic Review: Detective Comics, Vol. 7: Batmen Eternal

Published: September 11th, 2018
Written by: James Tynion IV
Art by: Alvaro Martinez

DC Comics, 151 Pages

Review:

After the previous volume, I was really hyped for this one, as it was the last of Tynion’s lengthy and mostly solid run on Detective Comics.

While this started off with a bang, it fizzled out about a third of the way through and kind of went out with a whimper, focusing on a new plot thread that I didn’t find interesting, especially when the larger arc of Tynion’s complete run didn’t feel like it was properly resolved.

It’s not that this was a bad story, I just felt like I was left holding my dick in the cold wind on top of a mountain. I climbed all the way to the summit and there was nothing there to greet me. No party, no fanfare, just cold wind, thin air and no sense of real reward.

Honestly, there’s not much else to say, really.

I wanted certain plot threads closed and followed up on and everything just sort of splintered off into different directions with no clear path to follow.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other collections of James Tynion IV’s run on Detective Comics.