Comic Review: Batman: Year Two

Published: 1987
Written by: Mike W. Barr
Art by: Alfredo Alcala, Alan Davis, Todd McFarlane, Paul Neary

DC Comics, 169 Pages

Review:

I’ve heard great things about Batman: Year Two. Surprisingly, I’ve never read it even though it came out in the time when I was just starting out reading superhero comics, specifically Batman titles.

Plus, seeing that this was written by Mike W. Barr is pretty exciting, as I read Camelot 3000 a few months back and loved it.

This story starts off with a bang. However, it gets away from itself after the first issue or so.

It explores Batman’s motivations and what he is willing to do in the name of justice. The story actually sees him team up with Joe Chill, the guy who murdered his parents, and Batman does brandish a gun in this. Eventually, he becomes the Batman we all know and love but his journey here was weird and it seemed kind of forced and shocking just to be shocking.

I guess this is a sort of sequel to Frank Miller’s Year One but it doesn’t seem to fit well with it.

I liked the Reaper character and his weird way of passing the torch to Gotham’s new hero but honestly, this was kind of a mess and Batman, despite this being early in his career, didn’t feel true to the character. I guess that’s kind of the point but it didn’t gel for me.

That being said, this is still worth a read and it has resonated with a lot of people. Also, it’s really cool seeing early art from Todd McFarlane, before his epic Spider-Man run.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: Batman: Year One and other late ’80s Batman tales.

Comic Review: Detective Comics: Medieval

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

Review:

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.

Comic Review: Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II

Published: August 14th, 2018
Written by: James Tynion IV
Art by: Freddie Williams II

IDW Publishing, DC Comics, 151 Pages

Review:

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.

Comic Review: Batgirl: Stephanie Brown, Vol. 2

Published: March 20th, 2018
Written by: Bryan Q. Miller
Art by: Lee Garbett, Pere Perez, Ramon F. Bachs, Dustin Nguyen

DC Comics, 327 Pages

Review:

This has been a really cool series and although I’m a massive fan of the Barbara Gordon version of Batgirl, Stephanie Brown is a really lovable character that has earned her way to wearing the cowl made famous by the original Batgirl.

Now this volume wasn’t as good as the first and sadly, it’s the last volume in the series, as it fell victim to DC Comics rebooting everything, which they think is necessary every few years now.

Anyway, I still enjoyed this collection of issues, which were mostly a string of 2-3 issue arcs but I think that the first one was more appealing and a better read because it focused on the new Batgirl proving herself and her value.

At the start of this one, she’s accomplished that and even has the real Batman rooting for her. The thing is, that takes away some of the tension in the plot and the drive within the character. It’s that old adage about how the journey is better than the destination.

Now the destination is fine and it is cool seeing Stephanie Brown becoming more confident and stronger but the thing I liked about her was her defiance against those trying to keep her down. Now she’s pretty much loved by those same people and even though the story needed to evolve towards that, it’s just missing it’s edge.

But truthfully, this could have very well picked up into something exceptional and this volume feels like that’s on the verge of happening but the series was cut off with the end of this book.

Stephanie Brown deserves to be Batgirl, she really earned it and it was fun experiencing her journey but DC wanted Barbara Gordon back and Stephanie got downgraded back to Spoiler, which seems like a real slap in the face by her intellectual property owners.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the volume before this one.

Comic Review: Deathstroke/Teen Titans: The Terminus Agenda

Published: March 6th, 2019 – May 15th, 2019
Written by: Christopher Priest, Adam Glass
Art by: various

DC Comics, 160 Pages

Review:

I really enjoyed the Batman Vs. Deathstroke story arc from last year, which was really a plot that tied Damian Wayne a.k.a. the current Robin together with Deathstroke, as there was the question as to who was Damian’s real father: Batman or Deathstroke.

This story builds off of Damian and Deathstroke’s relationship and issues from that previous plot but it also pulls in the rest of Damian’s Teen Titans teammates in a way that vilifies Damian in their eyes.

Here, Deathstroke gets captured by Damian but you soon learn that it’s all part of Deathstroke’s plan, as it exposes Damian’s fascist nature and his secret prison that he is keeping to hold other supervillains. The other Teen Titans don’t know about it but this blows the door wide open, making them distrust Damian and splintering the team.

What’s best about the story is that this isn’t resolved and Deathstroke succeeds in his plan.

Additionally, people may remember the recent Civil War II event by Marvel where the young Ms. Marvel was unconstitutionally imprisoning people and how there was backlash because her tyranny was never properly examined and certainly didn’t come at a cost to her.

This storyline is similar but it looks at the truth of the matter and there are actual repercussions here. I’m not sure if this was done intentionally to screw with Marvel or not but Christopher Priest and Adam Glass penned a much better story than Civil War II and it also shows that DC cares about their characters… or at least these two writers do. But having read Priest’s entire run on Deathstroke, I’m already convinced that he is, by far, one of the best comic book writers in the business today.

I dug the hell out of this story. It actually even made me interested in the Teen Titans title, which I haven’t read in years. But then this is followed up with a Lobo story and I’m not too keen on Lobo.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other recent Deathstroke and Teen Titans arcs, especially Deathstroke Vs. Batman.

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: Deathstroke: Arkham

Published: October 3rd, 2018 – February 6th, 2019
Written by: Christopher Priest
Art by: various

DC Comics, 134 Pages

Review:

Christopher Priest’s run on Deathstroke has been legendary but I also feel that it doesn’t get enough credit and seems to barely get any fanfare. Priest just understands Slade Wilson, his dynamic with other characters in the DC Universe and really gives the character more depth and complexity.

Following the Deathstroke Vs. Batman storyline, this arc sees Deathstroke sent to Arkham Asylum. While there, a lot of strange things start happening. I don’t want to give away too much but this does feature a ton of classic Batman villains with a lot of time given to Two-Face and Dr. Hugo Strange.

This was a fun story arc that continues to build off of the work that Priest has given us on this title. While there are different artists working on the five issues that make up this plot, everything felt consistent and matches the tone of the series thus far.

There isn’t much else I can say that I haven’t already said in reviews of other installments of Priest’s Deathstroke run. This continues to be good; Priest hasn’t lost a step or slipped into a state of redundancy, which is common when a writer works on a comic book for more than a few years.

Deathstroke: Arkham continues the title character’s journey in such a rich and interesting way that fans of him should truly enjoy this series. It’s been my favorite lengthy run on the character since his original title Deathstroke, The Terminator. In fact, I want to go back and revisit that series to see how it compares to this one.

Sure, I have my own personal bias towards Deathstroke but this is one of the best comic books being written today. More people should be picking this up monthly.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other story arcs in the current Deathstroke title, as well as The Silencer and Suicide Squad.