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 11, Batman Europa 2, Justice League 46, Martian Manhunter 7 and We Are Robin 7.
Batman and Robin Eternal 11
Mark: It’s the origin of Cassandra Cain, and it turns out James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder (with Ed Brisson on scripting duties this week) made some big changes without actually changing much at all. David Cain is The Orphan, which is an interesting choice. One I’m not completely sold on, but it feels premature to dismiss at this point. Based on what we’ve seen of him so far, The Orphan plays a much more subservient role than we’re used to seeing David Cain fill, but it doesn’t take away any of the power of him training Cassandra. Christian Duce (splitting art duties with Fernando Blanco this issue) draws The Orphan murdering a literal pile of bodies one by one in front of Cassandra, and it’s just brutal. So the heart of what drives Cassandra Cain has not been changed, if anything it’s even more traumatizing than before.
In a broader sense, one of the ways Batman and Robin Eternal has improved over Batman Eternal is its focus of vision. So far we’ve been following a single story every week, rather than bouncing around what felt like 10 or 12 disparate threads that may (or may not) come together at the end. Who knows if the story Batman and Robin Eternal is telling will end up being satisfying, but it’s at least coherent! Still, having to extend a story over six months is challenging, and it’s no surprise characters have occasional judgement lapses in the name of padding. So when Dick Grayson hears Harper, seeing visions of the past via Sculptor (comics!), utter the word “Batman,” he tases her and demands to take her place. Maybe Grayson’s emotions got the better of him in the moment, but just a few pages earlier he’d reminded us that such mind manipulation with his Spyral gear in place could kill both him and Sculptor. So why not just let Harper relay the information? It feels like an out-of-character moment, unnecessarily complicating the story.
Batman Europa 2
Drew: I’m not always a fan of “literariness” in comics — I tend to see it as a manifestation of the creators’ own self-consciousness about making comics. That is, I usually find concerted efforts to make comics “adult” as a pretentiousness that betrays a lack of confidence in the medium. Unless, of course, that literariness is done well, as it is in Batman Europa 2. Even outside of comics, allusions to Kafka can have an air of pretentiousness, but writers Matteo Casali and Brian Azzarello embrace it with such gusto (and artist Giuseppe Camuncoli inserts enough cocroaches) to make it charming. Kafka references might be all most writers could muster in the way of representing Prague, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg for this issue.
Early in the issue, Casali and Azzarello tell the story of Jan Palach’s self-immolation — a story that bears significant thematic relevance for this story, and later gets a direct punchline from Joker. Joker’s Casablanca quotes suggest that next month’s issue will have even more fun with this kind of setting nods. I can’t wait.
Justice League 46
Michael: I’m a fan of anything that de-New 52s the DCU. Justice League 46 curiously has Geoff Johns question the efficacy of the mostly non-existent Superman/Wonder Woman relationship; ya know, the one that he created. Throughout Darkseid War, Johns has assigned Wonder Woman’s POV as narrator. Diana is one of the few Leaguers who has not been transformed into a New God (being a god herself already), making her narration that much more relevant. Francis Manapul gives Big Barda the bombastic entrance that she deserves as she smashes her way through Apokalips brutes before engaging in a passionate embrace with her husband Scot. It’s not the subtlest or most sensitive way to accomplish his task, but Johns uses this as a jumping off point for a conversation about Steve Trevor and Wonder Woman/Superman and Wonder Woman.
When Steve questions Wonder Woman’s love for Superman, she immediately responds in defense. She tells him that they’re not in love and they’re only friends. I’m not sure whether or not this is a lie that she believes or one that she simply has at the ready for such an occasion. Regardless, in that moment I felt/hoped that Johns was trying to tell us that the Superman/Wonder Woman relationship doesn’t work; at least not as it is. Believe me when I say that I would love for that relationship dud to be done with.
The remainder of the book revisits a couple other characters from the vast cast of Darkseid War: Metron, Batman and Grail to name a few. Grail has control of the anti-life equation and plans to use it to further torment her deceased father Darkseid. I’m typically not a fan of changing artists mid-story, but at least Jason Fabok passed the torch to Manapul in a clear story transition. Manapul really brings to life the swift, lighting-paced action of the New Gods to life – I could feel Kanto’s Mother Box knife ping all around Mister Miracle before making the attack. Manapul’s female characters don’t feel oversexualized either. Wonder Woman looks formidable and steadfast, with a hard jaw that looks like it’s taken plenty of punches. I’m excited to see what else Manapul has got in store for the League.
Martian Manhunter 7
Michael: The past few issues of Martian Manhunter have dealt with J’onn Jonzz’s split personalities coming to terms with their identities. I still think this device that Rob Williams crafted is an interesting and inventive one, but it’s getting a little tiresome at this point. Though all of J’onn’s personalities (Mr. Biscuits, Daryl, The Pearl and The Mould) are still split, J’onn J’onzz himself is also present. Martian Manhunter 7 opens with J’onn at odds with the rest of his personalities because of his resurrection of Mars. J’onn’s decision to bring Mars back to life has caused Mars and Earth to exist in nearly the same space; the planets are doomed to crash into one another eventually. Mars’ return has played all kinds of chaos with time and space, including the aging and hardening of Mr. Biscuit’s young friend Alicia.
I’m all about physically manifesting an internal conflict, but seeing J’onn and Pearl throwing down got a little boring after a while. I still don’t really understand why we are seeing J’onn and his split personalities in the same place. If this all were taking place in his mind then that would make sense, but it’s all happening in the new reality that J’onn created. Also, what happened to the White Martians? Did Mars’ rebirth somehow negate their existence? Williams throwing in this time-and-space displacement has made things needlessly more complicated.
Eddy Barrows is missing from yet another issue of Martian Manhunter, with Ronan Cliquet filling in. Martian Manhunter has been Eddy Barrow’s best showing yet, so it’s a letdown that he wasn’t drawing Martian Manhunter 7. Cliquet’s art is less dynamic than Barrow’s, doing little to make the cluttered narrative of Martian Manhunter 7 more interesting. My personal favorite inconsistency of the book is when The Mould stands up to the Martian army and they simply mow him down. When Darryl screams out who he is however, Alicia stops the whole damn army just so she can make her dramatic reveal before she continues their assault. Gotta lay down that tension.
We Are Robin 7
Spencer: The nice thing about crossover events is that splitting the story between various books with different protagonists provides natural points for the perspective to shift. While much of We Are Robin 7 is spent enacting Red Robin and Red Hood’s plan to free the Robins, Lee Bermejo and Carmine Di Giandomenico shift the issue’s point of view to Duke Thomas, and use the action to further inform Duke’s idea of what a Robin actually is.
What exactly the Robin Movement stands for has always been a little vague (I had to roll my eyes a bit when Duke mentions finally believing in their “cause” earlier in the issue), and I think this may just be the moment that will lead to them becoming more focused and organized. Those kids who survive the crucible of the Robin War (and don’t quit afterwards) will have seen what it takes to do their job properly, and will without a doubt step up their game. Even with the Court of Owls pulling the strings, “Robin War” has shown that there is a danger to these untrained kids enacting vigilante justice without any safeguards, so anything that takes them from untrained, untested kids with lofty ideals to young men and women who can actually follow through on them with conviction is a-ok in my book. While there’s still plenty of plot to wrap up between the Court and Grayson (and not a lot of space to do it, which is worrisome), We Are Robin seems to have presented the solution to many of the themes and questions raised by the “Robin War” crossover, and I just hope we see these revelations followed up on.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?