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 12, DK III: The Master Race 2, Justice League of America 6, Robin: Son of Batman 7, and Teen Titans 15.
Batman and Robin Eternal 12
Patrick: How do you prepare someone for the worst news they’ve ever heard? When you break up with someone, how do you lead into that? Or when someone dies – how do you break that news to their loved ones? How do you fire someone? You falsely present yourself as calm, or happy, or unbothered until the time is right to do what you’re there to do. You lie. Batman and Robin Eternal 12 writer Ed Brisson dances around this question, confirming Dick’s suspicion that Batman killed for Mother in order to recruit a tough new Robin among a telepathic fantasy that is otherwise totally false. Within the story, Harper calls bullshit on this, decrying “it was only a dream” as a method of delivering information. She’s right, of course, but the idea sticks with Dick too strongly to ignore.
If that sounds like Harper’s being a little meta, it’s because the entire story of this issue traces through some very meta aspects of the Robin history. The Sculptor fills the role of DC Editorial, effectively rebooting Mother’s soldiers after their formative tragedies. She describes the process a lot like a new writer describing their new take on a classic character:
“I gently nudged their minds. Scrubbed what was not needed… but never overrode the tragedy. When I could, I let them know that they were loved […] but more importantly, I pushed them to be better.”
She goes on to say that Children that didn’t perform to Mother’s expectations would be “discarded,” in much the same way poorly selling series are discarded.
Taking place almost entirely in the shared telepathic dream between Sculptor and Dick, artists Javier Pina and Goran Sudžuka allow the trippy nature of the story to dictate some pretty innovative paneling. The production team sets this experimental tone on the title page, which — for the first time as far as I can tell — breaks the mold for Eternal title pages, forgoing the standard bar, and splitting up the credits all over the page.
DK III: The Master Race 2
Drew: It would be foolish to try to distill the success of The Dark Knight Returns to any one element. It’s common to remark on its dark tone and psychological portrait of Batman — both unusual at the time it was written — but much of the success in pulling those innovations off stems from its much more mundane (but just as expertly handled) narrative elements. One of my favorites has always been Bruce’s final battle with Superman, where Bruce systematically enacts a plan we’re not privy to. That’s a common narrative device, but it’s particularly effective in a narrative that has up to that moment spent basically every moment inside Bruce’s head. DKIII: The Master Race has yet to feature any narration from Bruce, but still manages to capture some of the power of that unknown plan unfolding before our eyes.
That plan is Carrie’s escape from GCPD custody, with the help of a whistle-controlled batmobile. Of course, some of what usually makes that kind of plan-revealing fun is immediately understanding what the plan was for, which this issue withholds from us. Apparently, Carrie was captured intentionally, but the exact reason why isn’t totally clear. Was it to tell the world that Bruce Wayne is dead (a lie), or was it just to assess how exactly the police would react to Batman? Either way, it’s clear that they both have a plan from here.
Meanwhile, Ray Palmer has successfully re-bigulated some of the Kandorians, but as the title of the series suggests (spoilers!), their goal is to take over the world. Miller and Azzarello navigate some of the ickier right-to-power connotations by making these Kandorians a fringe minority, whose first act after being restored to size is incinerating the rest of Kandor. That may make them too mustach-twirlingly evil to relate to, but that makes them exactly the kind of villains Miller’s Batman was designed to fight — Batman may be nuanced with moral greys and creepy political implications, but his villains are always clear-cut black hat bad guys. The Kandorians may be so evil that even the GCPD would chose to fight them, but I suspect only Batman has the power (and planning) to really do so. It’s not yet clear where Diana will fall in that fight — some of her dialogue reveals a kind of right-to-power attitudes that might find sympathy with the Kandorians — but it’s almost certain she’ll be in the fold by next month. I can’t wait.
Justice League of America 6
Mark: Man was it jarring jumping back into Bryan Hitch’s Justice League of America after a two month break between Hitch scripted issues. This has been an exceptionally dense book so far, one that doesn’t really read very well as a monthly title. So taking two months off, and then having Hitch jump right back into the thick of things, means a Marvel-like synopsis at the beginning of the issue would have been much appreciated.
At its core, this story involving Rao, God of Krypton, reminds me a lot of Geoff John’s last arc of Superman featuring the Superman analog Ulysses. Like Ulysses, Rao promises to bring peace and happiness to the Earth. And, like Ulysses, everything with Rao is not what it seems. But this stock narrative is complicated by apparent rips in the space-time continuum: Atlantis and Olympus appear to collide, Flash shows up at the Infinity Corporation Building in 1961, and Green Lantern speaks with Rao on Krypton 250,000 years ago. It’s a lot of moving parts, and almost too much to keep track of.
If I remember right, I think I’m more in the bag for this series so far than other contributors to the site, and I remain bullish on this arc, but there’s no denying it’ll read better in trade paperback. Hopefully future delays will be minimal and we won’t have to ramp back up again.
Robin: Son of Batman 7
Michael: After a steady six issues, Robin: Son of Batman 7 takes a dip in quality due to its obligatory “Robin War” tie-in. The Robins square against several heavily-armed Talons in an old-fashioned Gotham rooftop battle. The typically loner Red Hood suggests that the Robins need to “fight together” and Damian lays a fairly obvious trap of causing Talon to detonate a flammable container of flammables. Dick is leading his personal investigation in the Labyrinth of the Court of Owls where he is confronted by alleged son of Wayne: Lincoln March. Dick wants to know why the Court so desperately wants him to be their Gray Son once again, but is met by the new Gray Son of the Court: Damian.
Robin War…what are you exactly? The only thing that this series has proven to me thus far is that the We Are Robin crew isn’t exactly worthy of the Robin name. Sure, Nico semi-redeemed herself at the end of Robin: Son of Batman 7 by leading the team to the Court’s HQ at Gotham Academy, but she still spent the majority of the issue scared shitless of the Court. Scott Snyder’s Court of Owls is a cool concept, but I never could really get behind the “horror” that that silly nursery rhyme was supposed to evoke.
I say this a lot, but Scott Snyder’s concepts and characters haven’t fared well outside of his creative control. Wasn’t Lincoln March supposed to this pawn of the Court of Owls that rebelled against them for his own agenda? Why exactly is he working for them now? Why would they let him? Did Ray Fawkes and Pat Gleason steal the idea of Damian working for the Court from the mediocre Batman vs. Robin animated feature? And is that supposed to be a group of Owl-controlled Goliaths? What ARE you Robin War?
Teen Titans 15
Spencer: Scott Lobdell’s two “Robin War” tie-ins (Red Hood and Arsenal and Teen Titans) are some of the most tangental tie-ins I’ve seen in ages. Red Hood at least attempted to use the opportunity “Robin War” provided to dig deeper into its title character and his relationship with one of his brothers, no matter how unsuccessfully it did so; Teen Titans 15 can’t even muster that. The Jason/Tim scenes add no value to the overall plot, literally depicting how the cast got from Point A to Point B (it’s as boring and inconsequential as it sounds), and doing even less to build character or explore the themes of the crossover. Instead, we get Jason and Tim squabbling, with little motive or resolution. Straight-up: it’s lazy and boring.
Lobdell and co-writer Will Pfeifer take a smarter approach to the issue’s main story, using this month’s Gotham locale to their advantage by pitting the team against Doctor Pyg, but also using Pyg’s guest appearance to introduce a few long-term plots. That’s about the most you can hope for when it comes to a tie-in; I just wish Lobdell and Pfeifer could’ve executed it with even the tiniest bit of finesse. Every time Lobdell and Pfeifer even come close to a genuine moment between characters, it’s ruined by clunky, overly-expository dialogue — each character seems compelled to explain their emotions and backstory in intricate detail every time they speak. That same kind of dialogue ruins the action sequences as well.
The key piece of this sequence is the wall Bunker builds that the creature breaks through, but we never see it — both the construction and the destruction of the wall is conveyed through one throwaway line of dialogue. It just makes for stilted dialogue, clunky character work, and one absolutely toothless action scene.
Seriously, I hated this issue. Outside of the genuinely cute gag that opens it, this story is devoid of personality, charm, and fun, not to mention relevance and anything even approaching a point of view. Even the most hardcore of “Robin War” completionists can skip this issue with a clear conscience.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?