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 2, Green Arrow 2, Justice League Rebirth 1, and Superman 2.
Mark: I joke with my friend that I would never be able to write a Batman comic because I would want the entire thing to be filled from top to bottom with fist-pumping “I. Am. Batman.” moments. But a book like that would never work because part of the fun of those moments is their scarcity; it’s a cathartic release after pages (or even issues) of build-up. Tom King and David Finch’s Batman is perhaps the closest we’ve gotten yet to my joke book. Batman 2 continues the premiere issue’s trend of piling on the fan service, and it’s that aspect that’s preventing me from fully giving myself over to the book.
There’s a lot I like here. I love that Batman has embraced Gotham and Gotham Girl. The typical version of this story would follow Batman’s distrust of Gotham’s new superpeople and their motives, but instead he’s appreciative of the help. I also like a lot of individual beats, including Gotham’s amazement at Batman’s complete disappearance, and David Finch’s art continues to impress.
But I also can’t shake the feeling that Batman confirms my fears about Rebirth working overtime to give fans exactly what they’re asking for. And while individual moments are strong, the connective tissue around it is a bit slapdash. I trust King to have a long-term plan, but two issues in and I’m waiting for Duke to have some sort of purpose.
Batman 2 is like a big ice cream sundae. It’s fun! But Batman 1 was also like a big ice cream sundae, and I’m beginning to lose my appetite for ice cream. The reason “I. Am. Batman.” moments work so well is because we had to eat our vegetables (so to speak) in order to earn it. You can’t top ice cream with more ice cream.
Green Arrow 2
Spencer: After a stellar first issue (and an even better “Rebirth” one-shot), Green Arrow 2 feels like a slight step backwards. The whole “Oliver Queen is attacked by someone from within his company whom he trusts and loses all his money” plot is no doubt an important piece of writer Benjamin Percy’s opening story, but it’s also one I’ve seen before — in fact, it not only harkens back to the first arc of Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino’s Green Arrow run from a few years ago, but to Denny O’Neil’s classic run from the 70s as well. I can’t help but to feel a bit underwhelmed by it, especially after Percy centered such an interesting ethical conflict around Oliver’s money in issue 1.
Green Arrow 2 also suffers from a few odd character choices (Fyff’s oddly mercenary nature and Black Canary’s preposterous self-blame), as well as what could easily be the most unintentionally hilarious panel of 2016.
Combine that all together and you’ve got an issue that just doesn’t live up to the promise of the first two. Yet, it’s hard to fully dislike this issue. There’s a lot of interesting forward movement in terms of the overarcing plot that I look forward to unpacking over the next few issues, and for every character choice I disliked, there’s another one I loved (Emiko’s craftiness, Black Canary’s detective work).
That said, the true star of this issue is artist and colorist Otto Schmidt, whose work is as lush and full of character as ever. What I appreciate most about Schmidt’s art in issue 2 are the figures he hides in the backgrounds of his pages.
Here we’ve got Shado literally lurking in the gutters as Emiko frames her brother, emphasizing the power and influence Shado has over her. A few pages later there’s a similar beat where one of Dante’s goons lurks in the gutters, foreshadowing him sneaking up on Kanoot from behind only three panels later. It’s a clever, subtle way to liven up some already energetic lay-outs — Schmidt’s work is a joy to behold.
I’m still excited to see where Percy and Schmidt take Green Arrow next — I think this is more “mid-arc fatigue” than a long-term drop in quality. Let’s hope I’m right.
Justice League Rebirth 1
Patrick: The “rebirth” in Justice League Rebirth refers specifically to the roles of Superman and Green Lantern in Bryan Hitch’s League. One role is filled by a pair of relative newbies (though, Green Lantern Simon Baz was introduced longer ago than Kamala Kahn, so he might not get to fly the rookie flag too much longer) and the older Superman (but not, y’know the oldest Superman – the one that was in the main version of the Justice League before the New 52.) It may seem like I’m being overly pedantic in my parenthetical comments, but the details of who these characters are — and who they are to each other — is material to this story itself. Or at least, the story suggests that this is the case by having the active members of the League questioning the experience and loyalty of the Green Lanterns and Superman (respectively). None of it matters, as neither of those qualities are tested in this issue. The Green Lanterns come when they’re called, and Superman comes without being called. Then they all punch the Big Bug. The end.
If that sounds like a deflating conclusion, my friends, that’s because it is. Even amid panels of the League raining down destruction together, the action feels entirely hollow and generic.
Hitch both writes and draws this issue, but far too frequently lets his characters’ dialogue describe the action. There’s a run of panels earlier in the issue where the Leaguers are all trying their own attacks, only to discover that the Huge Bug’s armor is too tough. Every single attack is followed up by a speech balloon explaining, not why the attach didn’t work, but that the attack didn’t work. Absent any real sense of weight and motion, Hitch’s drawings need to be explained by Hitch’s words. That’s inherently weak storytelling in this medium, but it’s exacerbated by the fact that Hitch’s writing is borderline incoherent. Characters ask non-rhetorical questions that are never answered, and sometimes it seems like they’re answering questions no one asked. They talk right past each other. Plus, if I had a dollar for every time they refer to the giant floating threat in the sky as “this thing,” I could buy a thesaurus.
Michael: I am so very happy to have classic Superman back. The Superman of Pete Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s Superman 2 is a dutiful citizen of the Earth, a loving and encouraging father and a man whose years of experience have made him humble and wise. If the pitch for Tomasi and Gleason’s Superman was “just like our Batman and Robin series but…with Superman and his son” I would not be surprised nor disappointed. The joy and fun of Clark and Jon is worlds away from the broody/Gothamy relationship of Bruce and Damian, but the love in both relationships is undeniable. Barring one strange outburst of anger that Clark has towards a neighbor at the end of Superman 2, he is a completely pleasant and open-minded individual – which is a treat.
The fun of Tomasi’s “Dad Superman” is that he isn’t overprotective and overbearing, he actually encourages Jon to learn how to use his powers. To make the point even more explicit, Tomasi has Lois and Clark talking about how he as a father knows exactly the kind of thing Jon is going through as his powers develop. I think the key to a successful Superman characterization is narrowing in on the uncomplicated honesty of the character. Tomasi makes the obvious truths about Superman seem revelational.
The impact of the emotion and action of Tomasi’s script is only as strong as Patrick Gleason’s pencils. Gleason makes us feel just how happy Clark is to be heroing around again while simultaneously allowing us and Jon to trust and believe in him. You guys, Superman is back.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?