Comic Review: Detective Comics, Vol. 6: Fall of the Batmen

Published: June 26th, 2018
Written by: James Tynion IV
Art by: Eddy Barrows, Joe Bennett, Phil Briones, Miguel Mendonca, Jesus Merino

DC Comics, 163 Pages

Review:

Well, I don’t know how the volume after this one is but thus far, this is the peak of James Tynion’s Detective Comics run. This built off of all his stories before this one, tied them all together in a great way and delivered on a few major narrative promises established in earlier volumes.

In fact, this volume made the volumes before this one better. That’s a hard thing to do but Tynion proved to me, here, that he is a pretty worthy Batman writer.

As I’ve stated in just about every review of every volume in Tynion’s run, I don’t like large Bat-Family groups. But Tynion makes the most out of it here and this may be one of the best Bat-Family stories I’ve read in recent memory.

If you are a Clayface fan, which I am, this story is pretty heartbreaking. I don’t want to spoil anything but if you’ve read some of the stuff before this, things come to a head and it’s pretty emotional. And there’s a lot to be said about that, as comics rarely make me emotional these days.

The Victim Syndicate return and we discover that they’ve had a bigger, darker plan all along. While I didn’t like this villain group when they debuted, they really start to gel here.

As should be expected with a comic book title of this caliber, the art is superb and every panel of this book looks great.

In an effort not to spoil more than I may already have, I’ll shut up now. This was a damn solid story with real consequences that the team can’t just walk away from. It’s got me excited to read the followup, which is Tynion’s final volume.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other collections of James Tynion IV’s run on Detective Comics.

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: Detective Comics, Vol. 5: A Lonely Place of Living

Published: April 10th, 2018
Written by: James Tynion IV
Art by: Eddy Barrows, Alvaro Martinez

DC Comics, 113 Pages

Review:

The few volumes before this story weren’t all that great. However, they existed in order to lead up to the return of Tim Drake a.k.a. Red Robin. And now that Drake has figuratively risen from the dead, most of those other stories paid off in providing us with this solid tale.

As I’ve stated before, I’m not a fan of Batman working with big teams. But this team worked well in this volume and it kind of made Drake’s return much more impactful.

This also deals with a future version of Tim Drake that has become his timeline’s Batman. He has come back in time to kill Batwoman, as it is said that she is on the verge of doing something terrible that destroys the timeline that future Batman comes from.

While future Batman is subdued, the story serves as a warning for something involving Batwoman after this volume. And frankly, the way it was presented and laid out here, has me intrigued for what’s next in this series.

Again, James Tynion IV does a good job writing. Plus, the art by Eddy Barrows and Alvaro Martinez is superb. This looks like what a top tier major comic book should look like in 2019 unlike the big slew of Marvel titles that look like amateur Tumblr art.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other collections of James Tynion IV’s run on Detective 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. 2: Dancing with the Devil’s Daughter

Published: October 18th, 2016
Written by: Scott Lobdell
Art by: Joe Bennett, Javier Fernandez, Dexter Soy

DC Comics, 170 Pages

Review:

While the first volume in this short lived series didn’t blow my socks off, I am a fan of Scott Lobdell’s Red Hood stories. That being said, this one was a step up over the collection before it and this does set up Lobdell’s superb Red Hood and the Outlaws series.

The focus of the plot is the redemption of Duela Dent a.k.a. the Joker’s Daughter. Red Hood and Arsenal both have different opinions on whether or not Duela can change. This leads to the two best friends going their separate ways by the end of the arc.

I thought that this volume did a better job of showing Red Hood and Arsenal’s friendship, what it means to both men and how they are probably better off on their own due to their differences and their life trajectories.

Although this series is broken out into two volumes, it’s probably best to read them together, as the larger story is what’s most important and the volumes are rather short.

The art was pretty damn good. Lobdell has had nothing but solid artists on all of his Red Hood stuff.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Red Hood and the Outlaws.

Comic Review: Batgirl: Stephanie Brown, Vol. 1

Published: August 22nd, 2017
Written by: Bryan Q. Miller
Art by: Lee Garbett, Pere Perez, John Trevor Scott

DC Comics, 296 Pages

Review:

I wasn’t sure what to think going into this series. I mean, I always liked Stephanie Brown as Spoiler since she first popped up in the ’90s but I’m not too keen on anyone other than Barbara Gordon being Batgirl.

However, I’m really happy to say that this book impressed me and was a heck of an exciting read.

Stephanie Brown is just a fun character and in many ways she reminds me of Barbara Gordon before she became Oracle. She has a lot of energy and her personality is infectious and definitely comes right off of the page.

That being said, this is very well written. Bryan Q. Miller was hitting homers right out of the park with just about every issue of the twelve that are collected in this big volume.

Reading this now is also interesting because it all takes place in the era where Dick Grayson a.k.a. Nightwing was filling in for Batman. It creates an interesting dynamic between the characters and what they all think Bruce Wayne wanted for his legacy.

Barbara Gordon is in this as Oracle and she is essentially the new Batgirl’s Alfred. It’s a nice passing of the torch to Stephanie Brown and it sort of legitimizes her. As a reader and fan of Barbara, her acceptance of Stephanie translates to the reader who may have reservations about a new Batgirl.

All the story arcs within this served a purpose and it was neat seeing Stephanie grow in this role. The final arc, a four parter called Flood is the highlight of the book. It’s a story that features The Calculator as the villain and it calls back to one of the more important Oracle stories.

This book was cool. I dug the hell out of it and I can’t wait to read the second volume.

And man, the covers are beautiful.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the volume that follows this one.

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.