Look, there are a lot of comics out there. Too many. We can never hope to have in-depth conversations about all of them. But, we sure can round up some of the more noteworthy titles we didn’t get around to from the week. Today, we discuss Batman and Robin Eternal 24, Black Canary 9, Robin: Son of Batman 10, and Lumberjanes 24.
Batman and Robin Eternal 24
Spencer: With only two issues left in Batman and Robin Eternal, we’re finally starting to see the chink in Mother’s armor — despite her obsession with “strength,” her idea of what actually makes people strong is woefully limited. Really, Spoiler sums it up best:
Mother’s definition of strength, echoed here by her hand-chosen student, takes into account only ruthlessness and raw physical strength. As Mother’s already proven, those qualities can certainly be effective, but no matter what she thinks, they’re not the be-all, end-all. Stephanie Brown is the perfect character to prove that point, as her strength has always come, not from skill or natural physical ability, but from her perseverance, her ability to never give up no matter what the odds. Really though, this goes for all Spoiler’s allies: Tim’s intelligence, Harper’s loyalty, Cassandra’s conscience, these are all strengths in their own right. Mother’s obsession with her own idea of strength blinds her to that fact, and I’d bet money that her oversight will end up being a major part of her downfall.
If nothing else, it’s certainly why her plan for Harper will end up failing. Despite herself, Harper probably would like to take her frustrations out on Cassandra on some level, but Mother’s mistake is mentioning Harper’s “weak” brother. Harper won’t stand for that, not only because she loves Cullen more than anything, but because caring for and protecting Cullen has made her a stronger, more resilient person than Mother’s cruelty ever could’ve. I have faith that Harper understands that fact.
Writer Steve Orlando brings these ideas to life with quick, quippy dialogue for much of the issue (unsurprisingly, Midnighter’s comic relief especially shines), and Alvaro Martinez provides some of the series’ strongest pencils yet. Without straying from Batman and Robin Eternal’s house-style, Martinez delivers some inventive layouts and memorable images, starting with the shot of Duke Thomas reflected in Gordon-Batman’s visor and following up with Red Hood’s fight scene.
I love the way this sequence manages space. Jason and his opponent progress linearly through the panels at first, providing a sense of movement, but when that changes, Martinez lets us know by widening the panels and the gutter between them. The sudden switch-up makes Jason’s strategy easy to follow while still highlighting its fluidity and ingenuity. It’s an injection of smart visual storytelling that this series sorely needed.
Black Canary 9
Mark: As DC YOU winds down and fans look to Rebirth on the horizon, there’s been a lot of reflecting on individual books and how they’ve fared the past nine or so months. Allow me then to throw in my two cents on Black Canary: a potentially interesting premise wasted on weak characterization and, ultimately, poor plotting. So while filler issues like Black Canary 9 can be a frustrating interruption when you’re heavily invested in the serialized narrative of a book, on Black Canary, where I’ve basically lost interest in the main arc, a filler issue could be a fun way to use the promise of the initial premise in a refreshing way.
Unfortunately, Matthew Rosenberg and Moritat’s one-off issue is a total mess. I’m not mad at the idea of it; going back to the early days of the band (and the better days of the book) is a solid idea. And having them play a private gig for the tween relative of Carmine Falcone, attended by the best C-list baddies Gotham has to offer, is a promising setting. But the execution in both the writing and the art is inconsistent at best.
Take D.D.’s encounter with Valentine Chan. They squabble, Chan pulls a knife on D.D., D.D. kicks the knife out of his hands, then they embrace, mutter threats under their breath, then Chan leaves, abandoning a briefcase that has all the relevant information on his intended assassination target inside. Moritat’s pencils do not help clarify thing:
Based on genre tropes, I can infer what is supposed to be happening here and why it is theoretically amusing, but it’s not very clear on the page.
The MVP of the issue is Lee Loughridge on colors, lending the book polish and consistency while the rest of the main creative team is on leave. But it’s hard to justify the existence of an issue based on solid coloring work alone, and the rest of Black Canary 9 is just not up to snuff.
Robin: Son of Batman 10
Michael: Since NBC’s Community is such a huge part of my pop culture experience, I can’t help but think of it in times like this. Robin: Son of Batman 10 reminds me of Season 4 of Community because it’s the continuation of a story without the “original” storyteller at the helm. Sure, whereas Dan Harmon created Community Patrick Gleason did not create Damian Wayne — but he did create this series. Ray Fawkes and Ramon F. Bachs do their damnedest to keep this series going after Gleason’s departure but it feels like an unnecessary appendage.
Though Gleason seemed to have introduced and subsequently tied up elements and ideas on Robin: Son of Batman, this issue seems intent on retreading them. After Maya/NoBody Jr. was allowed to walk off into the sunset, the story brings her back like a veteran cop who just can’t stay away from the action. Similarly, Fawkes brings back the “Year of Blood” inspired enemy of the Lu’un Darga Clan. And guess what? They have a sociopath little boy leading their charge too!
I would not say that Gleason’s Robin: Son of Batman was a perfect book. It did leave a lasting punctuation on the character for me however. That being said Fawkes and Bachs do a respectable job at continuing this series but it falls short because it simultaneously doesn’t try anything new while failing to accurately represent what had been laid out before.
Taylor: Walk down the aisle in the supermarket with air fresheners and candles and you’re bound to see the words “Sea Breeze.” Despite the fact that actual sea breezes smell like salt, algae, and rotting fish, the popular idea of a sea breeze smelling fresh and clean holds fast in the popular imagination. No doubt, when most of us think of the sea breeze we think of vacation and freedom — a far cry from our normal, smelly lives. Lumberjanes 24 takes after this idyllic sea breeze of our collective imagination. While this makes for an entertaining comic, it sadly has little of the staying power of the actual smell of sea breeze funk.
After being pulled into the land of lost things the ‘Janes, Sea Farin’ Karen, and the Selkies are in trouble, having fallen into an ocean with a deadly whirlpool. Luckily, Molly and Ripley are there to save them with a pirate ship and a clever plan. After the adventure is done, Karen takes off with the Selkies, shirking her counselor responsibilities without even a thought.
At the last minute, Karen does manage to get the Janes their badges, which ties up all of the loose ends of this arc. Basically, everything goes back to normal for the Janes after Karen leaves. While this entire adventure centered around Karen, the Selkies, and the Land of Lost Things has been entertaining, I can’t help but feel it’s all been a little to breezy. We got some good character development from Molly, but after that, the list of things that have changed in these past five or six issues is pretty slim. The ease with which everything was tied up in this issue points at a climax that was never that suspenseful. Even when Karen and Molly were struck by lightening I wasn’t all that scared since it seemed unlikely they would perish so suddenly. The ease with which the Selkies and Karen put away their feud also is suspect in the same way.
All of this isn’t to say this is a bad issue. It’s entertaining and fun and a quick, light read. However, it would have been nice if the issue had been a bit more suspenseful or if someone or something changed in a significant way. As it is, its like those sea breeze scents you buy at the store — pleasant, nice, but ultimately evanescent.