In September, DC’s entire line is going to be highjacked by the villains of the universe. The creative teams frankenstiened together from DC’s regular stable of writers and artists, but — with a few exceptions — none of titles look like logical continuations of any of the current series. How’s a body supposed to know what they’re supposed to read? That’s where our four-part guide comes in.
Batman’s basically the most bankable superhero of all-time, due in no small part to his impressive rogues gallery. It’s no surprise, then, that over a quarter of the issues coming out next month hail from Gotham City. In part one of our guide, we’ll be going over the issues from Batman, Batman and Robin, Batman: The Dark Knight, and Detective Comics. Be sure to check out Part 2 – Superman and Earth-2 and Part 3 – Justice Leagues and Teen Titans.
Andy Kubert is a legend in comics, but principally for his art (and his connection to Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic art). Still, he rode shotgun on a couple of Grant Morrison Batman stories, and even drew Neil Gaiman’s Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?, so he’s definitely familiar with good writing (though he did pencil J. Michael Straczynski’s Nite Owl, so he’s also familiar with terrible writing). Kubert will also be writing the upcoming Damian: Son of Batman miniseries, which follows the Damian as Future-Batman we saw in Batman 666 and most recently in Batman Incorporated 5, so it’s safe to say that Kubert’s Batman shares a few steps with Grant Morrison’s. Andy Clarke is similarly well-versed in Morrison’s Batman, having worked on the Batman vs. Robin arc in Batman and Robin. Unfortunately, the New 52 version of the Joker has been mired in this whole self-mutilation thing that came with slicing his face off in Detective Comics 1. Joker looks to have his face intact on the cover of this issue, so here’s hoping these disciples of Morrison can deliver a Joker that goes beyond grotesque.
Written by Scott Snyder (with an assist from everyone’s favorite with-an-assist-from guy Ray Fawkes) and featuring one of the principal protagonists of Zero Year, this issue is bound to challenge the claims of irrelevance that are being leveled against the rest of these titles. We should point out that this issue is set in the “present day,” but Snyder has promised that it will refer to the events of Zero Year. Snyder’s one of those guys that’s kind of an automatic pick-up for us, so maybe take everything we say here with a grain of salt. Still, he writes smart characters like nobody else, and Edward Nygma is nothing if not smart. Artist Jeremy Haun has a simpler, more graphic style than Greg Capullo — more in line with someone like Becky Cloonan, who we’ve seen draw Snyder’s work incredibly well before.
Frank Tieri is one of those early Image guys, so his stories tend to pack on the machismo. That sort of thing can come off as desperate, but it’s an oddly compelling parallel to Oswald Cobblepot himself. DC fans may recognize Christian Duce as the artist of the recent Catwoman Annual, as well as from his work on Batman: Arkham Unhinged. Penguin has popped up several times in the new 52, but has recently been a little down on his luck, being ousted by the equally-lamely named Emperor Penguin.
Peter Tomasi is all over the Batman rogues’ gallery this month. It’s a little strange to see him taking the Bane reigns, and not James Tynion IV, who’s doing some good Bane work on Talon right now. Still, Bane’s been flitting around the background of the New 52 for too long, so getting a big-time writer like Tomasi is exciting. Additionally, Graham Nolan cut his teeth on the Batman: Vengeance of Bane series, so he’s familiar with the be-masked behemoth. Bane’s ‘roided-out scheming can come off as comical in the wrong hands, but these two are more than capable of making him the threat he needs to be.
In the wake of Batman’s tour of the stages of grief, Batman and Robin is going to have to redefine its premise. When the series comes back in October, it’s coming back as Batman and Two-Face (though, it looks like it’ll be Batman and Carrie Kelly the month following). This is another example of a series basically continuing through this hiccup of an event, but this issue gives Tomasi the opportunity to smooth the transition out a little bit. Moreover, Tomasi’s work with Two-Face during his run on Nightwing is held in high esteem by Harvey Dent aficionados. Guillem March is a wonderfully Batman-ish artist, lending his talents to the early issues of Catwoman and Talon, both of which strike clear gloomy tones.
Talon scribe James Tynion has been churning out compelling Court of Owls assassins for a year now — occasionally overshadowing the lead (Calvin who?). We’ve been worried about overexposure to the Court in the past, but it seems like it’s a part of Gotham that’s here to stay. The solicit suggests that this issue will define the trajectory of the Court in the coming months, so is a must-buy for any Talon fans. Jorge Lucas has not done a lot for DC in the past, but he did just fill in on Batman Incorporated 11, which is delightfully wacky. How’s that style going to play against the dark tone the Court of Owls calls home?
Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute. Aren’t those identical credits to the Court of Owls issue? You’re not seeing things — it’s totally true. Well, great: let’s talk about Ra’s al Ghul. Ra’s has been chilling in the sidelines for the majority of the New 52, but regained control of the League of Assassins as of the end of Batman Incorporated 13. That issue happened to end in a hell of a tease for Ra’s’s future plans, which has the potential to turn this issue into required reading for Damian fans. (Also, it’s sorta funny that Tynion has become the go-to guy for writing about impossibly powerful shadowy organizations.)
Here’s another villain that’s been floating around the periphery of the New 52, appearing in flashbacks of Red Hood and the Outlaws as Roy’s AA mentor, and in his own proto-villain’s issue in Batwoman 21. Waylon Jones is turning into quite the insecure weirdo, so it’ll be interesting to see how Tim Seeley steers this issue. Seeley is most widely known for his work on his creator-owned horror title Hack/Slash, so he definitely knows his way around a monster story. Portela was most recently seen drawing the “Red” sequences of Animal Man 21 and 22, so he clearly has a knack for the grotesque.
Batgirl. This is an issue of Batgirl, disguised as an issue of Batman: The Dark Knight, which seems like an odd bit of burying the lede for all of those Batgirl fans out there. Gail Simone invented this absolutely horrifying version of the Ventriloquist in Batgirl 20 and 21. But then the character sort of slipped away as fodder for Babs’ fists, and we weren’t really privy to the scope of her ambition, her madness, or her powers (all of which could be considerable). Derlis Santacruz recently drew a Harvey Bullock story in the Detective Comics Annual 2.
Scott Snyder boldly redefined the parameters of Mr. Freeze’s madness in the Batman Annual 1, but since then, the character’s been kind of focused on messing with the Court of Owls. Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti are stalwart workhorses of DC, and their issues range from being pretty neat to astounding. They tend to turn in their best work when the issues are isolated in some way, much as this one promises to be. Jason Masters was most recently seen drawing one of the bajillion stories in Detective Comics 19 (he’s also contributing to the Batman Incorporated Special due out later this month), so he at least knows his way around Gotham.
Everyone loves Clayface. He’s Gotham’s resident shapeshifter, so “it was Clayface all along!” is a common trope for Batman writers. John Layman even explored him a bit in Detective Comics 14 — but then mostly as a tool of Poison Ivy. This issue does run the risk of being well-worn territory, even within the New 52, but it’ll be interesting to see how Cliff Richards’ smooth textures depict the character, in all of his sloppy shapeshiftery. We weren’t entirely enamored of Richards’ fluid sense of space in his recent Batman and Robin fill-in work, but that might become an asset here.
Georges Jeanty is best known for his work on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8, so he knows a thing or two about drawing kick-ass chicks in skirts. He may draw really well here, too, but we’ll never know, since Ann Nocenti is an automatic pass for us. She’s simply dogged too many issues of Catwoman (and lets not forget her contribution to the Valentine’s Day Special). There have been rumors that it might be Harper Row behind that mask, but it will take a lot more to garner our interest. Pick up at your own risk.
Derek Fridolfs has written a bunch of Batman stories: Batman Beyond Unlimited, Lil’ Gotham, Streets of Gotham, Arkham Unchained — basically everything you didn’t read because it wasn’t part of the New 52. THAT CHANGES NOW. Fridolfs teams here with Javier Pina, who is already familiar with Pamela Isley from his outstanding stint on Birds of Prey. Ivy’s also been on a bit of a power-level roller coaster in the New 52, and could stand to have her connection to the Green explored a little. Also, between Birds of Prey and Rotworld, she’s had more of an opportunity to be a hero/anti-hero than a straight-up villain – this issue could see her taking a much stronger position on the Humans vs. Plants issue.
Matt Kindt is most well known for his critically acclaimed Dark Horse series Mind MGMT, so he understands off-the-wall. We know him around here for his work on Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E., and the backups for Justice League of America, where his detached style was perhaps a more natural fit. Neil Googe was one of the regular artistic voices in Wildstorm Comics, but hasn’t really been utilized yet in the New 52. Googe’s designs have a nice cheerful levity to them, which may mitigate Kindt’s coldness — particularly important for a character like Harley. It’s unlikely this issue will have anything to do with Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner’s forthcoming Harley Quinn, but it might be worth checking out, just to see how the character handles on her own.
Szymon Kudranski was basically born to draw a Scarecrow comic. He’s an old Spawn mainstay, and he lent some much–needed gravitas to the end of Geoff Johns’ run on Green Lantern. Kudranski knows how to visualize the scariest possible elements of the characters and environments he draws without relying on gore — it’s all about shading and perspective and really getting inside your head. Just so long as Tomasi gives him room to draw some creepy stuff, this one’s gonna be a slam dunk.
Man-Bat was recently featured in the backups for Detective Comics. Coincidentally, Scot Eaton and Jaime Mendoza have been doing some well-regarded fill-in work for the features in Detective Comics. Will these elements combine into something meaningful? The last time we read a Frank Tieri-scripted issue was Grifter 0, so our expectations are not high.