DC Round-Up Comics Released 2/24/16

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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 21 and Grayson 17.

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Batman and Robin Eternal 21

Batman and Robin Eternal 21Spencer: James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder bring us the origin of Mother in Batman and Robin Eternal 21, and by peeling back the layers of this character, continue to paint her as a compelling dark mirror to Batman. It’s notable that, while many of the small details may differ, the two characters essentially have the same origin: they both saw their parents gunned down in front of them as young children, but while Bruce Wayne became the Batman to ensure that no other children would face the same fate, Mother instead embraced the freedom she found in her pain and vowed to use tragedy to shape as many children as possible into “perfect” soldiers like herself.

Why did the two react so differently to similar circumstances? It’s hard to say, although I’d love to hear some of our readers’ thoughts. Perhaps Mother was more eager to escape parents who essentially sold her into slavery while Bruce loved his with all his soul, but on the other hand, perhaps these reactions were simply in their nature all along. Either way, it’s more clear than ever why Bruce was so horrified by Mother’s brand of madness, and that plays directly into his treatment of Harper Row.

It’s a shame Eternal spent so much time teasing Batman killing a child’s parents or one of the Robins being custom made for him by Mother, because the possibility of Batman having failed Harper in the wake of her mother’s murder is a much more compelling mystery, and one with a far more legitimate chance of damaging Batman’s reputation. Bruce’s solution again shows how deeply Mother affected him, but what I appreciate the most is how Tynion ultimately leaves the effectiveness of Bruce’s decision up to the reader. Did he make the right choice? As readers, we should have enough information about Harper’s past and her eventual decision to become Bluebird to come to a conclusion one way or another.

This issue also marks the return of Tony S. Daniel on art after a lengthy absence. I’ll admit that I’m a bit frustrated at the prominence Eternal has given Daniel despite his minimal contributions to the series; the insistence on finding artists with similar aesthetics has robbed the series of some of the artistic variety that was one of the previous volume of Eternal‘s greatest assets. Still, his work this week reminds me why I was so excited to see Daniel attached to this series to begin with; he’s easily one of the best “house style” artists DC has in their roster right now, and it’s astounding how much his work has improved just over the past few years alone.

If Daniel has a weakness is might just be his facial expressions, which can on occasion be a bit wooden and overly grim, but Tynion provides a script perfectly suited to work within those parameters — it’s filled with characters in pain or mourning or filled with steely resolve, and those are emotions Daniel excels at depicting. Still, my greatest surprise this week may just be how Daniel chose to illustrate Robin himself.

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Even if his other characters are very grim, sharp, and adult, there’s never any doubt that Dick’s a child, and that he’s a child having fun to boot. That’s the key to Dick Grayson’s charm, so kudos to Daniel for capturing that even in an issue where Robin ended up being a rather small presence.

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Grayson 17

Grayson 17Mark: As Grayson gets ready to wrap and Dick returns to his job as Nightwing, let’s reflect on what worked in the series and what didn’t. For my money, these later arcs (Grayson framed for murder! Grayson working against Spyral!) never consistently captured the fun and excitement of the initial issues. Partly because, as the world expanded and allegiances were in flux, the added supporting cast started requiring a significant number of pages — pages that used to be dedicated to allowing Grayson be Grayson. That’s all anyone really wants to see.

Grayson 17

So, once again, the best part of Grayson 17 is seeing Grayson be a super cool spy and interact with Agent 1. The worst parts involve Grifter and company and the increasingly (needlessly!) convoluted plot surrounding Spyral. Sure, if you’re a Wildstorm fan it’s always nice to see Wildstorm characters show up in non-trivial roles, but the amount of time devoted to furthering a spy plot that it doesn’t seem like anyone is invested in feels like a drag. Especially with the clocking ticking on Grayson the super spy.

You can charitably say that Tim Seeley and Tom King are parodying the stereotypical twists and turns common in the spy genre, but the plot thrust feels so subdued compared to their other parodic takes that I don’t think it’s the case. When Grayson 17 gets to do what Grayson does best, it’s a blast. Hopefully, the remaining issues get out of their own way so Dick Grayson: International Man of Awesome can end on the same high note it began.

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The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?

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3 comments on “DC Round-Up Comics Released 2/24/16

  1. Batman and Robin Eternal: I haven’t really enjoyed Tynion’s issues too much, especially as they are usually focused on providing flashbacks that just haven’t worked – the readers solved the underlying mystery far too early. Even Harper being the Robin was an obvious twist. But once all those pieces are in play, things become much more interesting. The question of what you do with Harper Row is a fascinating one. And you have to ask how much of this is Batman trying to do what is best for Harper, and how much is Batman trying to not have Mother win. Ultimately, the answer Batman reaches is self determination, that Harper should have the choice in how she lives, instead of having Batman decide the choice for her. And whether or not that is the right choice is a fascinating one that I hope gets explored.

    And I enjoyed Mother’s backstory. The big problem with Anti-Batmans is that they are usually quite boring, in that they have little more to them except being evil Batman. But Mother has always been so very different, the fact that she has Batman’s backstory doesn’t hurt her. It actually works really well, by drawing attention to just how differently they have taken their paths. On why they take such different paths, I think in some ways, it as simple as ‘Batman is the hero, Mother is the villain’. Everyone handles trauma in their own way. There is no one way react. Mother, as the villain, has to handle the trauma in a toxic way. If she had healthily healed, she wouldn’t be the bad guy. However, another possibility is the circumstances afterwards. Bruce had Alfred, and after his parent’s death, had a support network. Mother had nothing, except the people responsible.

    But the other strength is the great characterization. Things like Batman and Robin talking was fantastic. Batman and Robin Eternal is finally returning to what made the beginning so great. Seeley started it, but sadly couldn’t reach the heights of his first issues. Tynion probably did his best script yet (though the very first issue was great). And next is Valentine, and having read the preview, we are in for something special, I think

    I’ll discuss Grayson later, as I have a lot I want to say, and a bit busy at the moment

  2. Grayson:
    I’ve been playing Sentinels of the Multiverse a bit lately, a cooperative card game where superheroes have to work together to fight a supervillain. One thing that has been noticeable is how cleverly the characters are done. Naturally, each superhero’s deck is distinct, with unique strategies (as you would expect from a game with good game design). This distinctiveness in gameplay is matched by a distinctiveness in character, and you can look at each of Sentinel’s original heroes and understand exactly what type of comic they would have. And the best thing is that each of these characters would have very distinct stories. Despite all fighting crime in Rook City/Gotham, you understand exactly how Wraith, Expattriette, Mr Fixer and Nightmist’s adventures are all distinctly different*

    This is interesting to compare to DC and Marvel, in how this has allowed each character to have their own distinct space in the universe, while in comics, this is becoming a problem with many popular characters. Both DC and Marvel have been making efforts to fix this problem, with DC You and Marvel Now/All New All DIfferent Marvel.

    Nightwing has been one of the characters who has suffered this. As Robin, Dick Grayson had his own place in the world, but as Teen Titans became a success, his position in the DC Universe expanded. However, eventually, the demands of Teen Titans and the demands of Batman got so big, that Dick Grayson could only be one. Teen Titans was the biggest thing in comics at that point, so they got to keep Dick, on the condition that he stopped being Robin. So Teen Titans kept Nightwing, leader of the Titans, while Batman had Jason Todd, Batman’s sidekick.

    The problem is obvious. What happens when Nightwing stops being the Teen Titans leader? The Titans have moved on to the next generation, and even before that, there was attempts to tie Nightwing back into the Batman universe. There were some elements that worked. Nightwing as Tim’s big brother, who could act as a mentor as the man who had already been Robin, was fantastic. And Nightwing was also great as a counterpoint for Batman, trying to escape his shadow and not make Bruce’s mistakes, in stories that were based around Batman’s less healthy attributes. The problem is that while he makes a great side character, there wasn’t really a lot you could do with him as a lead, once you stripped him of the Titans.

    Things like his adventures in Bludhaven basically ended up as lesser versions of what Batman was doing in Gotham. On his own, without the Titans, the only major difference between him and Batman was his flirting. Unlike Wraith and Expattriette, I cannot tell you the difference between between Batman and Nightwing that justified a Nightwing book. Is it any wonder that Didio wanted to kill Nightwing in 2005?

    And then came Forever Evil. I have no idea whose idea it was, exactly, to make Dick a superspy. From my understanding, it wasn’t Seeley or King, therefore I assume Mark Doyle played a major role as Group Editor. But they came up with this idea that did something that Batman would never do. And then they handed it off to two writers who were dedicated to actually building an entire universe around Dick Grayson, Agent of Spyral. And it worked wonders.

    Dick Grayson had a place in the universe all to himself. WHen you ask the question ‘What is the difference between a Batman comic and a Dick Grayson comic?’, the answer is no longer ‘Grayson has a great arse’ (or should I say it is no longer just ‘Grayson has a great arse’?). Even Lanzing, who is writing now that King and Seeley are leaving, say this

    ‘It has made a comic that says Dick Grayson isn’t just the shadow of Batman, and he isn’t just a young Batman, he’s not just Optimistic Batman, he’s not all of those things that you want to put on Nightwing.’

    Grayson no longer fights Batman’s table scraps, and has his own world with characters like Helena, the Tiger and the Netz sisters. It is why I can’t complain about the stuff that isn’t Dick. I love the crazy world where Grifter talks to weird guys in cages, or when Midnighter turns up or any other sense of the big spy world, or when teenage assassins break into his room. Seeley and King have made a fantastic world, and I enjoy seeing all the parts of this world, not just the parts with Dick Grayson (it helps that I grok stories easily, and therefore don’t find many stories convoluted. Grayson is easy for me to understand**)

    And that’s why it is such a shame that they are having him return to Nightwing. Because that’s what is ‘iconic’ (I feel I am going to hate that word, as the DC Rebirth starts. I feel Birds of Prey and Batgirl are the only books that are not going to be going backwards). It is iconic, but it is returning Dick Grayson to a form that has never worked right, after 20 issues of critical acclaim by finally finding a place for Dick in the DC Universe now that the kids run the Titans. After two years of Dick Grayson being, for once, important (remember his victory lap, turning up in things like Batgirl and Starfire?), he will return to the exact spot that caused all the problems in the first place.

    I hope that all they want is the name and look back. What I hope is that Dick is still going to be a spy, but he’ll use Nightwing as his codename. Same costume as he wears now, except his shirt has the Nightwing pattern on it instead of the shirt he has now. Helena, the Tiger and all the spy stuff we love is still there, just renamed slightly. Keep all the changes, just use the more marketable name. Because can anyone really think that going backwards from THIS is a good idea?

    There is a hope. Apparently, Seeley and King are off the book, because they are working on something that will continue their plans of making Dick Grayson one of the biggest characters in the DC Universe. So they will be writing him again, soon. Considering Nightwing is biweekly, they may have just needed the time to write the first scripts. If they are still writing Grayson in some respect, I don’t see them wanting to reverse their work as ‘the next stage’. So maybe I am right (on the other hand, King is rumoured to be replacing Snyder on Batman).

    But even a weaker issue of Grayson proved why Grayson is one of DC’s best books. And this is the combination of a great creative team and a great set of concepts building Grayson a new world. Those concepts have built the foundation of what makes Dick Grayson, for the first time as a solo character, great. So I really hope they don’t get rid of all that

    *Wraith is your normal Batman story. Expatriette is a street war story. Punisher, with more morals and superscience bullets. Mr Fixer has strong community aspect. Stick to one particular neighborhood, and it is basically a long siege as each and every force tries to get involved. Mix that with a combination of martial arts mysticism and pragmatic uses of a wrench. Nightmist is a mystic detective story, cosmic horror noir with a good dolloping of Doctor Strange

    **Spyral is an organization built around maintaining a constant war with itself. Helena is head of the ‘good’ side of Spyral, and therefore compromised by Spyral’s design, even as she tries to be a good person. Dick and the Tiger want to stop this constant war, but understands Helena is not the problem. Dick’s war has allowed Grifter to realize the same problem, but Grifter wants to cut the head of the snake. Dick wants to stop Grifter, because he wants to save the good parts of Spyral even as he tries to burn the bad parts to the ground.

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