Villain Month Guide: Part 1 – Batman

villains month batman

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.

JokerBatman 23.1: The Joker
Written by Andy Kubert; art by Andy Clarke
Release date 9/4/13

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.

RiddlerBatman 23.2: The Riddler
Written by Scott Snyder and Ray Fawkes; art by Jeremy Haun
Release date 9/11/13

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.

PenguinBatman 23.3: The Penguin
Written by Frank Tieri; art by Christian Duce
Release date 9/18/13

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.

BaneBatman 23.4: Bane
Written by Peter Tomasi; art by Graham Nolan
Release date 9/25/13

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.

Two-faceBatman and Robin 23.1: Two-Face
Written by Peter Tomasi; art by Guillem March
Release date 9/4/13

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.

Court of OwlsBatman and Robin 23.2: The Court of Owls
Written by James Tynion IV; art by Jorge Lucas
Release date 9/11/13

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?

Ra's al GhulBatman and Robin 23.3: Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Assassins
Written by James Tynion IV; art by Jorge Lucas
Release date 9/18/13

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.)

Killer CrocBatman and Robin 23.4: Killer Croc
Written by Tim Seeley; art by Francis Portela
Release date 9/25/13

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.

VentriloquistBatman: The Dark Knight 23.1: The Ventriloquist
Written by Gail Simone; art by Derlis Santacruz
Release date 9/4/13

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.

Mr FreezeBatman: The Dark Knight 23.2: Mr. Freeze
Written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti; art by Jason Masters
Release date 9/11/13

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.

ClayfaceBatman: The Dark Knight 23.3: Clayface
Written by John Layman; art by Cliff Richards
Release date 9/18/13

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.

Joker's DaughterBatman: The Dark Knight 23.4: The Joker’s Daughter
Written by Ann Nocenit; art by Georges Jeanty
Release date 9/25/13

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.

Poison IvyDetective Comics 23.1: Poison Ivy
Written by Derek Fridolfs; art by Javier Pina
Release date 9/4/13

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.

Harley QuinnDetective Comics 23.2: Harley Quinn
Written by Matt Kindt; art by Neil Googe
Release date 9/11/13

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.

ScarecrowDetective Comics 23.3: The Scarecrow
Written by Peter Tomasi; art by Szymon Kudranksi
Release date 9/18/13

Szymon Kudranski was basically born to draw a Scarecrow comic. He’s an old Spawn mainstay, and he lent some muchneeded 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-BatDetective Comics 23.4: Man-Bat
Written by Frank Tieri; art by Scot Eaton and Jaime Mendoza
Release date 9/25/13

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.

23 comments on “Villain Month Guide: Part 1 – Batman

  1. My Bat-Family-Villian Pull List is planning on being:
    Court of Owls, Ra’s Al Ghul, Bane, Poison Ivy, Joker, Riddler
    Although now I am considering adding Mr. Freeze and Harley Quinn to that list.

    • I’m holding out hope that they have a really good colorist working with Kudranski. The white and black of his work on Green Lantern was AMAZING, but the effect was dulled a little on the brightly colored Talon.

  2. I know for sure I’m buying “Batman” 23.1-4 (completist compulsion) but I have a feeling I won’t be able to help trying to read all of these. Even though I know I’ll regret reading Nocenti’s, I don’t know if I’m strong enough not to read something that says Joker (‘s daughter) on it.

    • Both of the Frank Teiri books are also auto-skips for me. And then I start making hard cuts after that, simply for the sake of sanity. Like there are things on here that are kind of a curiosity – like Clayface or even Joker – that I don’t want to have to subject myself to without knowing. That’s ultimately what’s so frustrating about all of this: not only is the no guarantee of quality on any of these, in a lot of places, there aren’t even suggestions of what we can expect.

      • I read the first issue and did not care for it. It was certainly an improvement over Catwoman, but it still had a lot of the clunky storytelling beats and awkward dialogue that I’ve come to expect from her. Can you give me any stand-out issues that might change my mind?

        • In order to change your mind, I’m going to summarize the plot of Katana # 1 – 3.
          There is a gang (probably related to an oriental cult) which goes after Katana and fights her (probably to rob her sword). Katana becomes friend with a member of that gang, and persuades him to become her mole.
          He brings her to a meeting of the whole gang, and you tell yourself: “Now Katana will pretend to be his girlfriend, and listen to what they’re saying in order to get as many informations as possible.” Miss Nocenti decided to follow a less expected path: during that meeting, Katana immediately reveals her identity, and this leads to an action packed scene.
          At the end of that scene, Katana is the winner, of course, and you tell yourself “Now the leader of the gang will say something like “I’ll take my revenge”.” For the second time, miss Nocenti chooses to go in a less expected direction: the leader asks Katana to join the gang! And, even more surprisingly, she says yes, because, as she says in a thought bubble, “I will consider getting close to my enemy, but only to kill him.”
          After joining the gang, Katana starts working as a waitress in a restaurant attended by Yakuza members, and by listening to what they say she gets to know that a meeting of the whole gang is about to happen on a ship.
          She goes there, and she finds out that it was a trap: all those gangsters wanted was to put their hands on Katana, and they had drawn her on that ship on purpose. This leads to a 1 vs 100 fight (obviously based on Kill Bill Vol. 1), and of course Katana beats them all.
          At this point, there is a totally unpredictable event: Killer Croc comes out of the water and jumps on the boat. He tells Katana that he had concocted the trap she fell into, because he wants to rob her sword (every single villain she faces has exactly the same purpose, now that I think about it).
          2nd unpredictable event: He manages to rob the sword.
          3rd unpredictable event: He breaks it with his teeth.
          At this point the soul trapped into Katana’s sword comes out, but (4th unpredictable event) it isn’t the soul of Katana’s dead husband, but the soul of an old Superman’s supporting character, the Creeper. End of issue # 3.
          As you can see, miss Nocenti is filling Katana with a lot of umpredictable stage tricks and I highly appreciate that.
          As for issues # 4 – 6, I could not summarize them without spoiling too much, so I hope that what I’ve written so far is enough to persuade you. Did I accomplish my goal?

  3. So I think I’ll definitely pick up Joker, Riddler, Bane, Two-Face, Court of Owls, R’as al Ghul, The Ventriloquist, and Scarecrow.

    Croc, Mr. Freeze, Harley, Clayface, and Poison Ivy are all maybes. I suppose it will depend on how many other books I end up picking up those weeks.

  4. Pingback: Villain Month Guide: Part 2 – Superman and Earth-2 | Retcon Punch

  5. Am I the only person planning on skipping the whole lot? This just reeks of a DC cash-grab on the highest order. Do. Not. Want. Maybe I’ll punch myself later for missing something important in the Batman world.

    • Honestly, any sort of big event like this is a “cash-grab”, even when it has a solid in-universe reason to happen.

      I do want to mention that this isn’t the first time we’ve had Villains Months, though. It happened back in 2009, I think, when the Villains took over every DC Comic released that month. The way it’s been done this time around is certainly more obtrusive, but it’s not without precedent, and Villain Spotlight Issues are a staple in comics anyway (Batwoman just did one about Killer Croc, for example).

      So Villains Month doesn’t bother me that much, but I guess I can see why it might bother other people.

    • You’re definitely not the only one – word from retailers is that they aren’t happy about risk inherent in pulling all the sure things off the shelves. I trust that a lot of regulars that pick up two or three titles a month are going to opt out entirely, and casual readers will be turned off entirely. Like, what are Batwoman fans to do?

      I gotta challenge calling this a cash grab. The whole thing’s a business – a business that publishes paper books. The corporateness of DC and Marvel are fundamentally part of their brand identities. It is really hard for me to fault either of them for doing something to make money. They employ all these artists and writers that we obviously love.

      • Good points, Spencer and Patrick. It just doesn’t excite me much. Seeing a one-shot on a villain here and there doesn’t bother me, but I feel like it waters down the excitement when the shelves are flooded with them. Yes, it’s a business, but this is a clear marketing gimmick to boost monthly sales by saturating stores with extra product.

        • It’s funny – DC seems to have a very precise, mathy approach to everything they do. That’s why they insist on having 52 titles every month, that’s why their relaunch happened all at one time, that’s why they make continuity conflicts part of their stories. It’s makes all of their gimmicks too big too ignore, which is sorta bold, but off-putting as well. I guess it comes down to the question of: do you trust DC to tell you some good stories? I’m not saying that “yes” or “no” is the correct answer. Like everything they put out, I’m sure “results will vary” is most accurate.

  6. From this lot I’ll be getting Joker (despite the Kubert writing credit, not because of), Riddler (enjoying both Zero Year and Fawkes), Two-Face (solid fan of Dent, Tomasi, and Burnham covers), Ventriloquist (no-brainer), and Harley Quinn (liking Kindt’s stuff so far and Harley Quinn’s first solo appearance in the New 52 is reason enough)

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