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 13, The Flash 47 and Justice League 47.
Batman and Robin Eternal 13
Mark: There are two types of stories: character driven and action driven. Character driven stories don’t require a ton of forward plot momentum, and can get away with chapters where not much happens other than a character considers their day. Character driven stories rely on the author’s prose to be successful. Action driven stories, on the other hand, can be less artful in their writing. Whatever services the plot and keeps it moving is well and good enough. Batman and Robin Eternal 13 is an action driven issue, and the writing is less than artful. There’s some seriously clunky exposition and wooden dialogue here, but it’s surrounded by enough excitement that I find it forgivable.
Cassandra Cain returns to The Nursery, located in a gigantic, abandoned mine, looking to save any remaining children that are in Mother’s collection. Instead, she finds her father has been sent by Mother to destroy the entire operation. That means all of the children Cassandra came to save have been murdered and thrown into a giant pit. It’s pretty grisly. Meanwhile the flashbacks this week involve Cassandra’s time at The Nursery. There aren’t many new revelations here, but it’s interesting to see the operation at its peak.
Like the inconsistent writing, Marcio Takara’s art is great in broad strokes but suffers when it comes to the details. Cassandra being dropped into the pit of dead children is executed well; Takara implies the horrors of the pit without resorting to graphic details. But there are a few moments that left me flummoxed. Yes, Harper and Grayson show up to save Cassandra from David Cain’s wrath using electro-shock Bat Devices:
But what exactly is happening here? Are the bats being thrown? Did they climb up onto David’s hood? It’s frustratingly unclear.
Maybe it’s a page count issue. There are multiple pages with 10-12 panels, so maybe there’s just too much action to be conveyed and not enough pages available to do it clearly. Still, it makes for some wonky moments that detract from the overall presentation. I guess these are the sacrifices made to get a weekly out the door on time.
The Flash 47
Spencer: Even if he’s no longer a “Reverse Flash,” Eobard Thawne/Zoom is still Barry Allen’s opposite number. It’s not just that Zoom’s an “Evil Flash” — it turns out that his ability to slow time around him makes him the exact antithesis to the Flash, who discovers in The Flash 47 that his super-speed is, in effect, speeding up time around him. More than just a clever way to allow Barry to go toe-to-toe with Thawne, this revelation highlights the core difference between the two characters.
Thawne is a man caught in the past — he’s never moved past his mother’s murder at his father’s hands and the (admittedly unfair) comparisons made between him and the Flash. He murdered Barry’s mother in an attempt to show that, if Barry had the same upbringing he did, he’d be no better (let’s call that the Killing Joke gambit), but despite devoting his life to exonerating his father and finding justice for his mother, Barry never became consumed by his mother’s murder like Thawne did. Time slowed down for Thawne and he lost himself to the madness of that one moment in time, while Barry continued to move forward no matter what life threw at him. Their powers highlight their personalities and the way they differ, and that’s comics storytelling at its best.
Actually, this whole issue is smartly constructed from beginning to end. Co-writers Robert Venditti and Van Jensen essentially tell two stories — Thawne’s backstory and his final battle with Barry — at the same time, but in reverse order. Their fight ends as Thawne’s story begins, but it’s not just a gimmick — Barry couldn’t understand Thawne and come to terms with why he killed his mother until he got to the root of Thawne’s madness, so the storytelling here puts us squarely in Barry’s shoes. Brett Booth’s kinetic art is particularly inspired here — while his jagged panels and frantic energy can sometimes be overwhelming, they do wonders to differentiate the two time periods. It’s immediately apparent which panels take place in the present and which take place in the past — actually, Venditti and Jensen could have easily dropped the “before” caption that accompanies each flashback without losing a bit of clarity. The Flash can be hit-or-miss for me at times, but it’s fantastic issues like this one that remind me what this team is capable of at their best, and at least for me, they’re worth sticking around for.
Justice League 47
Patrick: One thing that I find fascinating about Geoff Johns’ use of the Crime Syndicate is that I’m never sure who they’re for. Are there big Crime Syndicate fans out there? I read that Justice League story that Grant Morrison wrote about Earth-3, and I liked it quite a bit, but that doesn’t exactly translate over to enthusiasm for the characters of Ultraman, Super Woman, Owlman, Power Ring and
Whatever-Evil-Flash-Was-Called Johnny Quick. But whatever my opinion of them, it’s remarkable that the characters themselves are so insistent on their own identities, even as the Justice League let go of theirs. This issue re-emphasizes how much both Batman and Superman have changed throughout this story, which is sort of a bummer, but it also straight-up replaces two Leaguers — Cyborg and Power Ring — with two Syndicaters — Grid and… still Power Ring, but like… the Power Ring intelligence. The more the League lets themselves become something else, the more the Crime Syndicate is allowed to be what they’ve always been.
Fortunately, Johns and artist Jason Fabok have a pretty good handle on what the Crime Syndicate is: goofily evil. The best example of this is Super Woman, who Fabok draws like a pregnant spider-monster.
How anyone draws a pregnant lady that looks so creepy, I’ll never understand. She proceeds to sing her unborn baby a lullaby — Hush Little Baby — but, since she’s evil, every utterance of the word “buy” is replaced with “steal.” That’s it; every other word is exactly the same. It’s a hilariously shallow stab at being “evil,” and it totally in line with what I expect from these guys. Hey, look at that: maybe I do sorta like the Crime Syndicate.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?