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: Knight & Squire

Published: July 5th, 2011
Written by: Paul Cornell
Art by: Jimmy Broxton

DC Comics, 157 Pages

Review:

I’ve always been amused by the Knight and Squire characters but more so by Squire, as I always digged her outfit.

This miniseries was six issues long and it was more of a parody than a standard story.

While it exists in canon, it focuses a lot on characters that are ripoffs or homages to more famous DC Comics characters. For instance, we meet Jarvis Poker, who is a wannabe version of the Joker with I guess some Riddler and Mad Hatter thrown in.

While I found some of the comedy bits to be amusing at first, it wore on me pretty quickly. Luckily, the real Joker eventually shows up and the story takes more of a serious turn.

This is lighthearted and fairly fun to a point, but it’s not something I’d probably ever want to read again.

I did enjoy the art, however.

There’s not much else to say really, which sucks. But this was pretty drab and luckily it was short enough to blow through.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: other more humorous DC Comics stuff.

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.

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: Arkham Asylum

Published: 1989
Written by: Grant Morrison
Art by: Dave McKean

DC Comics, 220 Pages (25th Anniversary version)

Review:

I bought Arkham Asylum in 1989. I was ten years-old but the first Tim Burton Batman movie had just come out and I was buying Batman comics like they were fresh hotcakes and I had a serious case of the munchies. By the way, no one batted an eye at a ten year-old buying a comic like this in 1989.

Anyway, at ten years-old, this shit was totally over my head. As a forty year-old, this shit is still totally over my head. I’m not saying that it’s tough to absorb, it’s just batshit crazy (pun intended) and reads more like Grant Morrison’s nightmares than a coherent or worthwhile Batman comic book.

While I really am in awe of Dave McKean’s art, it just doesn’t resonate with me in the way that I feel it should. I’m not keen on his character design, even if I like the overall style. But this book looks like Batman and his villains trapped within the pages of a Nine Inch Nails CD booklet from 1994. My teenage self probably saw that as cool but my older self thinks it is a weird mashup that doesn’t really fit no matter how dark you try to make Batman appear.

Getting back to the story, it is a mess. Morrison is a good writer when he’s focused and has more real estate to tell a story. For instance, his run on Doom Patrol was strange as hell but over the course of that lengthy run, there is a glue that binds it all together in a neat way. Maybe if Arkham Asylum was an intro to a larger story, it could have spread its wings and flew. But honestly, the story feels stifled and confined like the inmates in the Asylum itself.

Also, Batman does not feel like Batman here. But then neither does the Joker or Two-Face. As far as these characters go, Morrison misses the mark. But he was young when he wrote this and maybe he sacrificed character continuity for trying to be a hip edgy boi. I hate to say it but this feels like edgy boi bullshit.

This isn’t a total waste though. It certainly is a work of art and it helped steer Morrison’s career in the direction it needed to go. Plus, his Batman stories a decade and a half later were damn good.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: Grant Morrison’s runs on Batman and Doom Patrol.

Comic Review: Joker

Published: 2008
Written by: Brian Azzarello
Art by: Lee Bermejo

DC Comics, 130 Pages

Review:

When this came out in 2008, I thought it was pretty badass. It hasn’t aged well though.

But I guess my changed feelings on it now is because I’ve aged as a comic book reader and the character of the Joker just doesn’t feel right in this. Also, the plot is very thin and this mostly just follows a regular guy who finds himself pulled into the Joker’s orbit on the day that the criminal madman is released from Arkham Asylum.

I know that this came out at the same time as 2008’s The Dark Knight and that it was made to capitalize off of that highly anticipated movie. In fact, the actual look of the Joker here, is much more in tune with Heath Ledger’s Joker than the regular comic book Joker.

The story does not tie to the movies though and it exists within Brian Azzarello’s own version of the Batman universe. But in an era where comic book franchise constantly get rebooted, what the hell is canon anymore?

I do like the art style and the character design is good for most of the key characters. Although, the look of the Riddler is more cringe than the current Tom King Riddler, who I absolutely hate.

Reading this now, this just feels like some edgy boy shit that’s trying too hard to be hardcore and extreme but never actually has the balls to cross the line like DC Comics did at the height of its classic Vertigo titles.

I think that this story ties into Azzarello’s current Batman: Damned series but I’m not 100 percent sure on that, as I’m waiting to read that series once all the issues come out.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other Brian Azzarello comics, especially the recent Batman: Damned series.

Comic Review: Batman: Knightfall, Book II

Published: 1993-1994
Written by: Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon, Alan Grant
Art by: various

DC Comics, 643 Pages

Review:

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.