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 4, Green Arrow 4, and Nightwing 2.
Patrick: The implied problem with Batman is that he’s a vigilante that plays by his own rules, so surely, someday, he’ll cross the line. Maybe it’s an invasion-of-privacy thing, or maybe he’s inflicting cruel and unusual punishments on people without giving them the benefit of a fair trail. Those are both way-legit concerns, but neither one really fits into the stark morality of superhero comic booking. Batman doesn’t kill, so that puts him on morally solid ground. Tom King and David Finch’s Gotham (the Man, not the City) take the concept of an unhinged, always-angry superhero and plays out that to only end fitting the narrow morality laid out by comics. Yeah, he kills twenty-seven people.
Those twenty-seven men are part of Task Force X — a fact that Duke arrives at in what almost seems like a parody of Sherlockian free-associative mystery-solving — which mean that mean ol’ Amanda Waller is the catalyst for all of this (just in time for Suicide Squad – out today!). Bare with me a second, because the issue loops back over on itself enough that it takes a hot second to align all the motivations and come out with a narrative that makes sense. Gotham’s anger problems were being exacerbated by the Psycho Pirate (under Hugo Strange’s counseling, under Waller’s employ), so she could coerce/force him to bring harsher justice to the streets of Gotham City. The logic of this all adds up, but it unfortunately shifts the emotion burden of villainy away from the mysterious characters we’ve been following since the end of issue 1. The move kind of negates any of Gotham’s actual responsibility, and in turn negates any of the compelling parallels between Gotham and Bruce. For me, it’s the central bummer of an issue that seems intent on bumming me out as many times as it can.
Next bummer-point: Gotham Girl. While Psycho Pirate taps into Gotham’s anger, he only ratchets up Gotham Girl’s fear, reducing her to a quivering mess. She gets two different lines of dialogue in this issue: “I’m scared” and “I’m very scared” neither of which make her a particularly active character. The book is already kind of a boys club, and it’s frustrating to see a supernaturally strong female character spend the entire issue crying in Duke’s arms.
And my last bummer-point: Batman’s stealth-abilities. Previously in this series, it seem like King and Finch are making a joke about the implausibility of Batman disappearing and reappearing with such efficiency — Gotham even lists the various supersenses Batman has to overcome to get the drop on him — but that joke is now being played to the most absurd levels imaginable. Waller and General Lane meet in a facility so secure, Lane can spend four whole panels explaining the security. But it doesn’t matter – Batman’s able to infiltrate it because of course he can. The “the damned Bat-man is behind you” moment did get a chuckle out of me, but kinda because there’s this whole exciting espionage mission we don’t get to see Batman undertake.
Green Arrow 4
Spencer: Is it just me, or is there some ever-so-slightly icky gender stuff going on in Green Arrow 4? Diggle telling Fyff to “quit whining like a little bitch” seriously rubbed me the wrong way; Ollie and Diggle’s feud revolves around a girl whose name is never even mentioned (as someone who missed Benjamin Percy’s previous run, this did nothing to fill me in on their backstory either); Black Canary becomes a classic “girl hostage”/”damsel in distress”; all the women in this issue are either working for, or captured by, the villainous Ninth Circle. I don’t think any of these issues would be damning on their own (in fact, before getting captured, Black Canary stars in the issue’s best sequence, her infiltration of the Inferno [lovingly rendered by Juan Ferreyra]), but when combined together in one issue like this, it definitely makes me a little uncomfortable.
Which is a shame, because there’s otherwise a lot to like here. Percy still doesn’t provide enough context to Ollie and Diggle’s feud (which is important, considering we’re still early into the “Rebirth” initiative), but the resolution manages to be surprisingly mature.
I mean, the horseplay isn’t exactly mature, but Ollie’s willingness to repeatedly apologize, Diggle’s ability to accept his apologies, and their ability to find common ground with each other and quickly put any hurt feelings aside to take down the Ninth Circle speaks to a level of emotional maturity that isn’t always found in superhero comics. It may also just be the very theme of this arc: money can be lost or turned against you, but true friendship and loyalty never will. When Ollie’s money fails him, it’s Diggle, Fyff, and Dinah who are all there to defend and help him, no matter what issues they may have with him. It may take money to be Green Arrow, but true friends and allies are, by far, the most important arrows in Ollie’s quiver.
Michael: With Nightwing 1 out last week and Nightwing 2 out this week I’m not positive of exactly what I want out of this series; but I don’t think I’m getting it just yet. Previously I mentioned my protectiveness of the character of Dick Grayson and Spencer mentioned the frustrating vagueness of the Parliament of Owls’ plans. For better or worse, both of those hold true for Nightwing 2.
In essence, a reader’s reception of Nightwing 2 boils down to their feelings for Dick’s new frenemy/teacher Raptor. Raptor has been hired on behalf of the Parliament of Owls to retrain Nightwing to be a badder “bad guy.” How do I feel about Raptor? Ehhh I’m not loving him to be honest. Last issue his whole thing was using his fancy claw Suyolak to find “what ails” people. Granted we get a lot more exposure to him, but his “freestyle rap battle” and marketing/branding approach is just…odd. With his discussions of brand extensions and dark vs light, I just don’t think he’s telling Dick anything he hasn’t heard before; at least from what I believe Dick to be.
Even though Dick unknowingly helped him deliver a freighter full of refugees into slavery under the Parliament, he’s still with Raptor. Tim Seeley has us believe that Raptor’s “long game” against the Parliament means that he is not as bad as he seems. For me that means that we still don’t know who he is or what he wants. Basically I don’t buy into the appeal of Raptor and I don’t see why my boy Dick does. Also, enough with drone-inspired ships/weapons!
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?