How many Batman books is too many Batman books? Depending on who you ask there ain’t no such thing! We try to stay up on what’s going on at DC, but we can’t always dig deep into every issue. The solution? Our weekly round-up of titles coming out of DC Comics. Today, we’re discussing Batman and Robin Eternal 3, Bizarro 5, Black Canary 5, Justice League 45, and Martian Manhunter 5.
Batman and Robin Eternal 3
Patrick: One of the running themes of Scott Snyder’s take on Batman is the idea that Bruce never really had as much of a handle on Gotham’s history as he thought he did. That’s evident from the Court of Owls, through Batman Eternal, and in Bruce’s questions about Joker’s identity. It’s an idea that Grant Morrison toyed with as well: Gotham was infiltrated by Talia’s goons on every level of government and business. I always found that to be a weird suspension of disbelief: are we supposed to believe that he’s the World’s Greatest Detective or aren’t we? It turns out that these kind of “AND THEY WERE HERE THE WHOLE TIME” mysteries play out a more naturally when our heroes are a bunch of dopey Robins.
And yes, I know: Tim’s a great detective in his own right and Dick is a high-ranking superspy, but the fact that the Mother mystery would be so elusive to them makes so much more sense than if this was one that Bruce had to solve. In fact, Batman’s implicit involvement in… whatever Mother is… makes the whole thing that much more intriguing. And for every piece of insight that one character brings to the table, there’s always another to reflexively panic, and make everything so much worse. Dick and Helena can do some sleuthing to determine that Mother was into trafficking genetically designed people, but it takes Jason’s cynicism to drive home the possible personal connection to Batman.
For me, Red Hood was the standout of this issue. It’s so liberating to read a take on Jason Todd that embraces his sense of humor. Tim Seeley is like a Jason Todd-whisperer, painting him as young, but not too young, and experienced, but not too experienced. His surprise at discovering that Cheap Trick recorded a new album — and then realizing that “new” meant six years ago — had me laughing out loud. The art isn’t quite so neat, as there are two pencilers and three inkers credited on this one. Everyone’s appears to be doing their best Paul Pelletier impression, but that’s so close to the Jim Lee-esque DC house style that there ends up being very little personality to the way this thing looks. Also, on the subject of Red Hood, I’m not at all clear on how his mask works. Is it like Iron Man? Or does it all come off at once?
Michael: If you’re a regular reader of our DC Round-Up, then you know that I typically melt in adoration when I write about Heath Corson and Gustavo Duarte’s Bizarro mini-series. I think that’s largely to do with the fact that making a humorous “superhero book” is no simple task. In Bizarro 5, Corson’s script continues to make great use of the wealth of characters and stories that reside within the halls of DC. Road tripping buddies Bizarro, Jimmy Olsen and Chastity Hex find themselves breaking into Area 51 to retrieve alien tech for A.R.G.U.S. After taking the bribe of a $50K trip to Vegas, the trio is locked up in Area 51 as planned. The “alien prison movie” that Corson and Duarte provide is too similar the Guardians of the Galaxy movie however, and pales in comparison because of that. Corson has fun with an inmate who says that he is Green Lantern Kilowog’s cousin. He throws around various uses of Kilowog’s trademark “poozer” to much amusement; I’m gonna repress my continuity nerd and assume that Corson knows that Kilowog is the only surviving member of his race…but hey! Maybe that’s part of the story here.
Bizarro is on a hot streak at the blackjack table and before we can fully process the potential Rain Man analogies, Duarte gives us a full page of our heroes descending an escalator wearing brand new suits. Bizarro seems to have a lot of fun with Duarte’s visual gags. One of my favorite jokes of the book was what I’ll call the “Lois ex machina.”
She threatens to blow the whistle on Area 51 if her father doesn’t let her friends go, poking fun at how she outed Clark Kent’s identity in the pages of Superman. I think that Corson chose the flashback/Ocean’s Eleven narrative since Bizarro 5 was essentially a heist story. Those types of temporal edits are fine if they are done for a reason – I just didn’t feel like it was completely necessary here. One more issue to go – if they could keep the quality of this book as consistent as it has been I would love to see an ongoing series for Bizarro and Jimmy.
Black Canary 5
Spencer: When Black Canary first launched, Dinah had become a singer in a band mainly to make enough money to start another dojo. Five issues later, though, she’s finding herself surprisingly comfortable in her new role, and unafraid to show it. Her issue-opening declaration of admiration and devotion for her bandmates is absolutely genuine, and helps cement the bonds between these four women. The evolution of their relationship makes their downtime much more enjoyable to watch, and my favorite scene of the issue might just be when the band rests around the campfire, bouncing ideas off each other and working together to figure out just what kind of predicament they’re caught up in.
The campfire scene is also an excellent vehicle for delivering exposition, but not all of the issue’s table-setting is as natural. Kurt voices his concerns about Dinah putting the band in danger several times throughout the issue, basically repeating himself and coming across like a nag; likewise, the fact that Paloma is avoiding her family is repeated to the point where writer Brenden Fletcher might as well be beating me over the head with it. Much more interesting are the moments where Fletcher and artist Pia Guerra keep their foreshadowing a bit more subtle. Take, for example, these two scenes:
Guerra and Fletcher draw a clear parallel between the ninja’s martial arts moves and Maeve’s dance moves. On the surface, this serves to help Dinah realize how she can incorporate her training into her stage presence, but there seems to be more to it. After all, Maeve and the assassin’s skills are eerily similar; the assassin stole some of Dinah’s blood; the assassin seems to be a carbon copy of Dinah; Maeve’s new Sonic Scream is likewise a copy of Dinah’s; Dinah herself is hinted to have received her scream in the first place from Ditto. There’s an awful lot that connects these women to each other, and I’m eager to see what these connections mean and how far they truly go.
Guerra also puts in strong work throughout the issue. I’m not sure how much longer she’s going to be working on Black Canary, but if she keeps putting Ditto in exponentially more adorable outfits in each issue, I’d be fine for her to stay on forever.
Seriously, she’s so adorable that I can’t even stand it.
Justice League 45
Mark: After such a promising introduction, it’s sad to see Scot Free continue to be so thoroughly sidelined in this arc of Justice League. Perhaps he has a larger role to play down the line, but with Darkseid dead and Geoff Johns handing out God duties left and right this issue, I’ve been hoping to see Scot with a little more to do. And, yes, the exact why of events happening this issue are unclear to me, but I’m not going to complain too much about Flash fusing with Black Racer to become the new God of Death or Batman being the God of Knowledge. And Super Angry Superman beating the crap out of Lex Luthor, leaving Luthor to rot on Apokolips, then having Luthor be captured and turned into the new God of Apokolips? Sure! Why not? And then I got to the last page and saw that Justice League is being treated like it’s own small event comic, with spin-off titles galore, and it all makes a little more sense.
Francis Manapul is on art duties this month, and with an assist from Brian Buccellato on coloring they’re a hard team to beat. Even when I didn’t love the narrative of their Detective Comics run, the bright intensity of their color choices (with pinks and greens and purples) always gives their work a distinctive look. I wish more DC titles would follow their lead.
Martian Manhunter 5
Mark: How much you enjoy Martian Manhunter is really coming down to how much you like Mr. Biscuits. He’s by far the most interesting aspect of what is sometimes a needlessly confusing book, and that’s true once again in Martian Manhunter 5. The comedy of airport errors as Mr. Biscuits and his entourage attempt to board their flight (to where? Is it stated?) is the best part of the issue. A lot of that comes down to the fact that every other character so far is incredibly ill-defined. Who is Leo? Who is Daryl Wessel? Who is the old dude in a makeshift vigilante costume? They’re not written like mysteries— there are no reveals teased— they’re just blank slates, and at this point I’m not sure what’s going to change.
My big beef with the issue comes from Mr. Biscuits leaving Alicia behind at the airport where she is of course immediately abducted by Martians. Why would he choose to leave this little girl by herself? You could argue that it’s because Mr. Biscuits is an alien being and doesn’t understand his actions, but the text argues against that when he shares a tearful goodbye with Alicia. It’s clear he knows what he’s doing. And why doesn’t anyone else, say Wessel, have an opinion on the matter? I’ve been overlooking a lot of narrative faults with this book, but for some reason this one really stuck out as a sore point.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?