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 Action Comics 47, Batman and Robin Eternal 9, Gotham by Midnight 11, Green Lantern 47 and Robin War 1.
Action Comics 47
Mark: I recently watched Netflix and Marvel’s Jessica Jones series, and while I admired many of the themes and ideas the writers engaged, I often found myself frustrated by the volumes of explanation and justification given to a power of ability, only to have that logic be ignored just a few minutes (or episodes) later. Sometimes you’re just better off not explaining how a specific ability works, and letting “comic book logic” do the heavy lifting. Other times, when something goes under-explained it feels like a major cheat. See: Superman’s ability to absorb the shadow from everything and everyone in Action Comics 47. Where did that come from? Why was he able to do it and why didn’t he do it sooner?
Also, Wrath (aka Jennifer) is Vandal Savage’s daughter? Seems like a big reveal that Greg Pak didn’t have the page count to really make the audience feel. Same with the Frankenstein/Superman fight teased at the end of the last issue. It’s basically over as soon as it began. Which is maybe not a bad thing, as Georges Jeanty’s pencils are also a step down from last issue. They get the job done in the more expositional moments, but the action beats are missing a detail and clarity that makes for the best work in comic books.
After starting out on a very strong note, this latest Action Comics arc ended on a bit of a whimper. While no where near as dire as Superman, seems like the Man of Steel hasn’t yet quite found his place in the new(ish) DC YOU.
Batman and Robin Eternal 9
Spencer: Sometimes in these weekly, written-by-committee series, it’s hard to tell what elements each individual writer’s bringing to the table. That’s not the case with Jackson Lanzing & Collin Kelly, who make their Batman and Robin Eternal debut this week with issue 9. Their character interaction, humor, and dialogue absolutely sizzle, injecting pure personality into a plot that could perhaps otherwise be viewed as a bit of a digression from the main Mother thread. Seriously, the Red Hood/Red Robin/Bane dynamic is comedic gold, and I’m bummed to know we’ll only get an issue or two with them.
The sound effects also add an extra spark of personality to the issue.
Letterer Saida Temofonte uses an eye-catching, unique font that not only fits the scene, but adds to it; there’s clearly a lot more thought given to them than the typical sound effect.
With so much focus on creating moments that sparkle and shine, though, some of the finer details do end up slipping through the cracks. Jason stealing one of Bruce’s capes is a fine joke, but how did he sneak it on Tim’s plane, and what did he do with it once he landed? Mother’s ninja assistant also has displacement issues; he throws a punch at Bruce, but then literally vanishes from the skirmish completely until Bruce escapes, to jarring effect. Some of these inconsistencies even translate to the art; there’s only about a 50% chance that artist Roge Antonio will remember to draw Red Robin’s cape in any given panel, for example. Overall, though, this is a memorable issue, bristling with personality and establishing some fun dynamics, not to mention reestablishing another familiar figure from the Batman mythos. I continue to be pleased with where Batman and Robin Eternal is headed, and how it’s getting there.
Gotham by Midnight 11
Patrick: The penultimate issue in this series blows out the scope of the paranormal threat to Ghost Busterian levels, introducing a supernatural terror the size of a skyscraper and an army of zombies in one fell swoop. And while it’s cool to see the GCPD pull a 180 and decide they absolutely need Precinct Thirteen, it kind of strains credulity that they wouldn’t already have embraced their unique skills. I mean, they live in Gotham City, which may be one of the more grounded — if still full of weird-super-hero-shit — cities in the DC Universe, but aliens, interdimensional beings, gods, ghosts and demons sure seem like they should be the subject of public record, right? Case in point is Jim Gordon, who states the painfully obvious to Commissioner Sawyer.
But maybe that’s just the way things are with ghost stories – people refuse to accept that what is happening to them is real because it is impossible. Writer Ray Fawkes and artist Juan Ferreyra actively work against the kind of ethereal quality of ghost stories, providing cold, hard facts the spirits that are being raised from the dead. Those little profiles read like police files — detached and matter of fact — even for someone like Corrigan who we know so well. The whole thing ramps up to a supernatural spectacle too enormous to ignore: a three-way giant-monster / giant-ghost / giant-God (?) fight on the streets of Gotham. After something like that, doesn’t really seem fair to make Precinct Thirteen work in the shadows any more, huh?
Green Lantern 47
Michael: One of the many flaws of the Green Lantern movie was how much time it spent on Earth. While there are plenty of awesome Earth-based GL tales, it’s always more satisfying to see members of the Corps fighting the good fight in space or on other alien worlds. Green Lantern 47 gives Hal a chance to return to Earth for a little R&R with his brother’s family. In a case of superhero coincidence, its fortunate that Hal just happened to be around when someone (Sonar?) decided to blow up the damn ferris wheel. Hal’s nephew Howard appears to be hurt but more than likely he’s gonna turn out just fine.
This whole issue felt a little empty; Robert Venditti is really trying to play up the emotion with Hal reuniting with his brother and the possibility that Hal let Howard get hurt, but I ain’t feeling it. The beginning of the issue has Hal, Virgo and Trapper comment on Earth’s beauty, or lack thereof. Virgo and Hal are in awe of the Earth while Trapper doesn’t really see what the fuss is all about. I’m the Trapper of reading Green Lantern 47 – Venditti is seeing this beauty and heart in Hal’s family reunion but I’m not. Any given comic book has beats that it needs to hit to move the overall story along but you could really feel those clunky mechanics at work here.
Then there is the whole issue of that Hal/Parallax reveal at the end of the book. While Geoff Johns didn’t give a damn about blending old continuity with New 52 stuff, I think that Venditti has his work cut out for him by throwing Hallax into the mix. I have no idea how that concept will vibe with the current state of the GL lore, but it probably explains how “Hal” stranded the Corps on the other side of the Source Wall in Green Lantern: The Lost Army 6. I’ll say this for Green Lantern 47 – at least they got rid of Hal’s nasty long hair; now we gotta work on that trench coat.
Robin War 1
Drew: How much do you know about the War of the Roses? I’m not a huge history buff, but I know enough about the ascension of English monarchs to understand that its famous situation — where two men laid claim to the throne, mounting armies of loyalists on either side — was actually quite common. It’s like Game of Thrones (or, rather, Game of Thrones is clearly inspired by situations like the War of the Roses); the claimants and their motivations are clear as day, allowing us to understand exactly what they’re fighting for. In spite of the claim on its cover that “Robin War Begins Here,” Robin War 1 doesn’t give us much in the way of motivations for any of these characters, let alone why they would go to “war.”
I mean, sure, the “We are Robin” Robins seem to be more of a menace than a benefit, but we understand that they want to help fight crime. It seems, then, like the second they’re drawing time and energy away from other crimefighters, be they police or the “legitimate” Robins, they’re actually working against their own goals. In becoming outlaws, they’re diluting the power of the police to address other crimes. The same could equally be said of the “legitimate” Robins, who are also outlawed, and whose only motivation in this issue seems to be to shut the other Robins down. Again, in so doing, they prevent the police from doing their jobs as effectively.
For me, a big part of the problem is that this issue fails to put any of the Robins in situations where vigilantism is necessary. We open with a Robin stopping a liquor store robbery, but a cop shows up within three panels. That’s the only crime we see any Robin fighting in the whole issue, and it was both unnecessary, but also ended up killing two people. This issue makes a compelling case against vigilantism, never really bothering to mount a counterargument beyond our presumed investment in continued vigilantism in Gotham. The threat of the Court of Owls certainly could present a justification for vigilante justice, but until then, why don’t all of the robins just hang up their masks and lay low?
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?