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 14, Detective Comics 48 and Swamp Thing 1.
Batman and Robin Eternal 14
Michael: It’s more or less the middle of the series of the half-year weekly Batman and Robin Eternal, so that means it’s time for less lateral story moves and more head-on issue addressing. Batman and Robin Eternal 14 has many of the characters coming clean in one way or another. In the past both Scarecrow and Batman reveal their true motives in “working with Mother.” In the present we see that David Cain is in no real danger from Mother’s “nuclear attack” and that Dick consciously knows that Batman made mistakes because he was human. The final line of dialogue of the issue comes from Dick himself: “No more secrets.”
I have been nothing but skeptical of this series thus far and at this point there’s no reason to alter that assessment. At least Tynion & co. have figured out that their weekly series can’t actually sustain a full year – does anyone remember what the Red Robin/Harper Row/robot parasite subplot of Batman Eternal was? (I bet Spencer does.) The success of any given narrative is dependent on the believability of the characters’ motivations. In the case of Batman and Robin Eternal I have never bought the characters’ motivations from the start. I could never buy into the notion that Bruce wanted “someone better that Dick” or that present-day Dick would be so stubborn as to believe that himself.
No matter how absurd those ideas are, Batman and Robin Eternal 14 nevertheless pulls the rug out from underneath your feat in one fell swoop by having our heroes reveal that they never actually believed in what we thought they did. The “I knew the truth all along” bit can definitely work, but it needs to be at least…kind of earned. All of the major character decisions and revelations in this issue feel less “natural story progression” and more “the story is halfway through, better start telling them something.” Batman and Robin Eternal 14 follows a predesignated rhythm instead of an inspired story path.
Detective Comics 48
Mark: Jim Gordon as Batman may have been Scott Snyder’s brain child, but it took a Peter Tomasi written Jim-Gordon-is-Batman story for me to care. The neat trick here is that Detective Comics 48 is not about Batman. It’s first and foremost the beginnings of a murder mystery, and it’s a pretty compelling one: a lunatic with a Revolutionary War era pistol guns down a George Washington cosplayer in an alley. That’s a pretty good start.
But it’s greatest strength is making JimBats interesting. My big complaint with Gordon as Batman across the rest of DC is that he’s so milquetoast. I still don’t feel like we have much sense of what makes Gordon compelling under the cowl in Batman. Here, Tomasi lays out one really large difference between Jim and Bruce upfront: Jim’s a family man who cares deeply for his daughter, Barbara. The exchange between father and daughter, Batman and Batgirl, as they go about their nights is pretty great.
I find the absence of Damian in Batman to be a pretty obvious, kind of annoying, flaw in Snyder’s arc, and for my money this page does the best job any of the Batman books have done so far in illustrating what makes Gordon unique in taking on the mantle. Finally.
Maybe it’s the absence of RoboBat, maybe it’s the rounding out of JimBat as a character, or maybe it’s because I prefer when Detective Comics does actual detective stories, but I haven’t been this excited about a Detective Comics run for a long while.
Swamp Thing 1
Spencer: Swamp Thing 1 is a throwback to a different era of comic storytelling, and that ends up both helping and hindering the issue. Len Wein’s dialogue continues to be a sore spot for me; every character speaks as if they’re reading out of a thesaurus, and even supposedly grieving parents are able to tell the story of their son’s death in extreme, clinical detail, as if they’re a narrator and not a character. Just as bad is when both the dialogue and the narration serve only to reiterate actions already happening on panel.
Swamp Thing explaining his every action to a crocodile is also pretty cringeworthy, I gotta say.
Yet, that same wordy narration can be quite effective at setting a mood when not rendered redundant; I’m thinking specifically of the issue’s opening pages, where Wein paints a surprisingly creepy picture of the swamp and Swamp Thing’s origin as much through words as he does through images. The throwback aesthetic of this issue also helps make the story more palatable; one single zombie barely feels like a threat at all in today’s zombie-filled landscape, but in an issue so purposefully retro it seems much more at home.
So this series clearly isn’t going to be for everyone, but for any fans of pulpy, old-school horror stories out there, this is probably just the story for you.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?