Monday, December 17, 2012

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 12/12

Batgirl #15
Story: Gail Simone
Art: Daniel Sampere

With one issue now left in her run, Gail Simone continues to tell the story of Batgirl's confrontation with the Joker. Having abducted her mother, Joker has asked Batgirl for her hand in marriage, something Barbara Gordon is forced to accept to save her mother's life. More than any of the other members of the Bat family so far (and I say so far since Red Hood hasn't really dealt with Joker in the crossover yet), Batgirl is dealing with thoughts about killing the Joker. As she fights her way through his thugs and then gets into a brutal fight with him, Barbara's inner monologue points out that she is more than willing to take the Joker's life. Whether that would happen if push comes to shove is taken out of her hands by circumstances, but it's interesting to read. A real inner struggle about taking a life is a complexity we don't get in a lot of superheroes. Either they have no problem killing, or they never will. To hear Barbara ruminate on it, and to come to the conclusion that she will, even though that is the opposite of her usual stand, was something worth reading. Simone also keeps developing the subplot around Barbara's serial killer brother, James Jr., and her roommate, Alysia, pulling it into the main story by having James feel he has to help Barbara for the simple reason that his mother and sister are his to deal with, not Joker's. I'm worried that, judging by the solicited cover for the issue that will now be the first post-Simone issue, the James Jr. plot won't be resolved before Simone's exit. Another real shame, as she has a great handle on this creepy character. But I will enjoy this great run while it lasts, and can only hope whoever has to pick up these plot threads is as capable as Simone.

Batman #15
Story: Scott Snyder/ Scott Snyder &James Tynion IV
Art: Greg Capullo/ Jock

Every month, when I sit down with my stack, I think, "OK, this book can't keep impressing me as much as it has been." And every month so far, I have been wrong. Batman #15 is another pitch perfect move in the game between Batman and the Joker. Greg Capullo's splash page of the Joker at the beginning of the issue is chilling, a look into the eyes of a madman, accompanied by Batman's narration that gives you an insight into Batman's relationship with his archfoe; the Joker is so far beyond what is sane, so far beyond what is normal. Batman has to remind himself that the Joker is just human; this is not even a given. Joker seems to have everything planned out perfectly, easily escaping from Batman when the GCPD shows up and interferes at their confrontation at the dam. What follows is a tense scene between Batman and his family, with tempers flaring over his keeping the kidnapping of Alfred and the details of one of his earliest confrontations with the Joker to himself, details that might mean that the Joker does indeed know the identities of Batman and his family. By the end, it's clear that Batman is doing this because he is honestly afraid for the safety of the people he loves. I am glad to see a Batman who is this human; this is not a Batman who is removed from humanity. After some great detective work, Batman heads toward the place where the Joker is waiting to throw his party for Batman: Arkham Asylum. In the backup, we see inside the Asylum, where the party preparations are being made, and get the first New 52 Riddler story. Snyder pits Joker against Riddler, and Riddler proves to be clever enough to get out of the Joker's trap. Joker continues to relate to everyone he meets simply by discussing how they relate to Batman; in this case that Riddler is the smartest of Batman's foes, and that he is the "weaponsmaster" honing Batman's greatest weapon, his intellect. I wish I could remember who said this (might have been Paul Dini or Bruce Timm), but a Batman creator at one point said that Riddler is the hardest Bat villain to write, since his plan needs to be complex enough to almost stump Batman, but still fall together perfectly when the story is experienced again. Snyder is presenting Riddler as an intellect on par with Batman, and I want to see the Riddler story he has lined up for after "Death of the Family" even more now that I know how well he can handle the villain. He has the chops to really present a great Riddler story.

Batman and Robin #15
Story: Peter J. Tomasi
Art: Patrick Gleason

Damian is a character who has grown a lot since his early appearances, and has grown a lot since his last confrontation with the Joker. That doesn't mean the Joker doesn't remember the fact that Robin beat him with a crowbar, and is not one to forgive. Damian, directly disobeying Batman's order to stay in the Batcave, goes out to try to find and save Alfred. This in itself is growth, as Damian understands that Bruce needs someone to help save Alfred, and even cares about the butler, even if he would probably be hardpressed to admit it. But Damian falls into a well laid trap by the Joker, leaving him in the hands of the madman. What follows is an issue where the Joker talks. He tells Damian exactly the problems with Robin, and all the Bat family, and why Batman needs to be rid of them. It's great dialogue, and the issue is well written, but a lot of credit goes to artist Patrick Gleason. The issue is filled with a dark, gloomy air that takes the words to the next level. The Joker's little nest for Robin, full of grubs and insects, is disgusting, and the kind of thing that perfectly fits the Joker's fractured psyche. And Gleason's Joker is incredible. Greg Capullo has defined this new incarnation of the Joker, and Gleason takes that and runs with it, drawing a Joker who is all gangling limbs. His face is as horrifying as it is in Batman, and the flies that are circling him add an extra level of revulsion. In the end of the issue, Damian is left to confront "Batman" (I doubt that really is Bruce Wayne), and I am very curious to see where this battle with even an impostor father figure leaves our Robin.

Cable and X-Force #1
Story: Dennis Hopeless
Art: Salvador Larroca

I personally think Cable gets a bad rap as a character. He is a product of the 90s, no doubt, but then again so am I, and he's evolved a lot over the years, becoming a much more complex figure. I was glad to see that he was coming back in Marvel Now!, and coming back with the team where it all started. The first issue of the new Cable and X-Force starts out with Cable and his team coming into conflict with the Uncanny Avengers, and then flashes back to show how the team came together. Much of the issue's focus is on Hope Summers, Cable's daughter, who is searching for her father. The relationship between the two of them is established well by not only how they interact, but how Domino, probably Cable's oldest friend, interacts with Hope. There's is a loving parental relationship, but one where Hope has been trained well enough to stand up to her father. I hope we get to spend more time with father and daughter throughout the upcoming issues. When I first saw the cover to this issue, I wasn't too enamoured with Dr. Nemesis's new costume, preferring his old mask and fedora look, which is how he appears in the internals for this issue. Hopeless hits all the beats with the character so right that I'm sure we'll get a good reason for this change in wardrobe, and one I hope the good doctor has something to say about; if you've been wearing the same gear while hunting Nazis for going on sixty years, there's probably a good reason for the change. I thought Hopeless made a good decision in starting the issue with a solid action scene, forgoing some of the talking heads problems we get in many modern first issues. All in all, I thought this was a great first issue, and one that makes me curious to see exactly what Cable's new X-Force is going to be up to.

1 comment:

Mike Mariano said...

Greg Capullo's plainclothes Bat Family (Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson, etc.) has bugged me since the first issue, and they make another appearance in Batman #15. Bruce Wayne is an expressionless bobblehead with painted-on eyes, and it mystifies me to see that because Batman is so expressive, especially with his (sometimes bloodshot) eyes.

Luckily this is the only pet peeve I have about Capullo's art, but it's frustrating to see such an uninteresting Bruce Wayne.