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 5, Green Arrow 5, Nightwing 3, and Superman 5. Also, we will be discussing Supergirl: Rebirth 1 on Tuesday, so come back for that!
Mark: Batman 5 brings Tom King and David Finch’s initial arc to a climax, and while I find myself less than enamored with these initial five issues, there is reason to be hopeful. The issue ends with King dropping a number of bombs: Claire Clover (aka Gotham Girl) and Duke Thomas will get married at some point in the future, and, oh yeah, she’ll end up killing Batman somehow. I like the potential re-centering of the story going forward around Gotham Girl. Her brother, Gotham, ended up being a bit of a dud. I was disappointed when he turned evil—we’ve seen that story a million times before—but if his death ends up being the catalyst for something truly memorable than five wonky issues is not the bad in the long run.
But yeah…Gotham…I think it’s pretty clear how non-interesting he is that not only does Batman not really fight him, but the book can’t even muster up the enthusiasm for more than a perfunctory display when he dispatches the Justice League.
And the issue begins with another one of those fan service moments that are equal parts endearing and teeth grinding. Sure, it’s amusing to see Alfred confront Gotham as Distraction Batman until the real deal can show up, but it also doesn’t make the most sense in the world. Couldn’t he just control the Batmobile from the Batcave? Yes, we’d sacrifice the joke, but King’s insistence on fan service with a capital F every issue continues to wear me down.
Every time I’ve written about King and Finch’s Batman I’ve ended by talking about how much potential this book has. And it’s true. Tom King is a great writer and I think David Finch has never been better than he is here. Yes, this issue leaves me with a lot of the same quibbles I’ve had in the past, but with this initial arc behind us I’m feeling a little more optimistic about the future of the book.
Green Arrow 5
Spencer: It can be exhilarating to watch a story’s themes (and a character’s priorities) come into focus over the course of a storyline. Benjamin Percy and Juan Ferreyra made it clear from the beginning that the virtues and evils of money would be a major theme of their first Green Arrow arc, but it’s been fascinating to watch that somewhat abstract concept morph into a much more personal conflict over the past five issues. What’s more important to Green Arrow: money, or friendship?
Obviously, that’s not normally a one-or-the-other choice, but by Green Arrow 5‘s climax, that’s exactly the dilemma Ollie faces: either he can salvage enough money from the Inferno to payroll Green Arrow’s vigilantism and Oliver Queen’s charities indefinitely but let his friends die in the process, or he can save his friends’ lives by destroying the Inferno and lose the money in the process. I suppose that’s a fairly obvious choice, but Percy’s laid enough groundwork about what both money and friendship mean to Oliver over the last five issues that readers can easily follow Ollie’s thought process, and understand why this is such a difficult decision to make.
After all, it’s obvious that Oliver loves money, and that he does a lot of legitimate good with it. But there’s also limits to what money can accomplish, even in the hands of a superhero, and his own fortune was turned against him at the most inopportune moment. Meanwhile, Oliver’s friends have been all over the place this arc, abandoning and befriending at equal pace, but they still have one thing money doesn’t: loyalty.
In the end, Oliver’s friends saved his life, not money, and that’s what seals it for him. Going forward, Green Arrow may be broke, but at least he’ll have friends who support him, and maybe that’s all he needs to be a superhero. Maybe that’s a slightly cheesy moral, but after all the work Percy and Ferreyra have put into this arc, it feels like a legitimately earned revelation for Ollie nonetheless.
Spencer: This is obviously simplifying things a bit, but I feel like Grayson was a celebration of Dick Grayson as a character, and, perhaps most specifically, a celebration of the fact that Dick is confident in who he is. Yeah, he feared being abandoned to deal with Spyral alone, but his morality never shook, and throughout the entire series he remained the same charismatic, principled, and extroverted character he’d always been.
I suppose that’s why this first arc of Nightwing has felt like such a step backwards to me. Some have criticized Dick’s return to the Nightwing mantle as being more of a demotion than a rebirth, and in some ways, Dick’s sudden crisises of identity and confidence feels like writer Tim Seeley running with that theory, exploring who Dick will become next now that he’s back in the Bat-Family fold. That’s all well and good, but after Grayson, I’m having trouble figuring out exactly why Dick’s so rattled. He’s got quite a bit more freedom and leverage amongst the Owls than he ever enjoyed with Spyral, and charismatic as he is, Raptor’s taunts aren’t anything Dick hasn’t heard before. Barbara’s speculation makes the least sense of all to me.
What’s that even mean? That Dick wants to escape his family? A core aspect of Nightwing’s character — and a trait explicitly highlighted throughout the last couple arcs of Grayson — is the fact that he needs his friends and family in order to stay sane. I hate to say it, but the core emotional conflict of this title just feels like a forced call-back to a long-ended era of Dick’s career.
And that’s a shame, cause otherwise, there’s a lot to love about Nightwing 3. The puzzle house is a killer concept, one I wish Seeley and Javier Fernandez had more space to explore, and the twists, turns, and double-crosses are better than ever; the spy stuff is much easier to follow in Nightwing than in Grayson, without ever seeming less clever. Even Seeley’s exploration of young Dick’s poverty is a natural and compelling addition to the character, one I’d like to see explored further. It’s just a shame so much more of this story feels forced instead.
Shane: Well, if we were worried before about Lois Lane being a little too passive in this series, I think we can set those fears aside. As the Eradicator follows Superman and his family to the moon, where Batman has built himself another Batcave (because of course he has), things go bad. Really, really bad. And with Superman soon out of the picture, his son finds himself running for his life in a scene that had me a little on edge–Doug Mahnke should really consider drawing something in the horror genre, because his framing and shadow-work would be a perfect fit for that sort of thing. It’s all okay, though, because Lois Lane, fighting against all hope to save her son, finds just the tool to do so.
The Hellbat is back! Co-writers Tomasi and Gleason bring back the incredible armor from their run on Batman and Robin, and just as it gave the forces of Apokolips some serious pause, Lois Lane is able to use it to beat back the Eradicator. It’s a pretty awesome scene, and that’s a good thing, because the issue doesn’t have a ton else to offer. Maybe it’s a result of the accelerated shipping schedule, but I’m finding that a few of the DC Rebirth titles are having more issues that don’t accomplish too much, and in this all-action installment of Superman, it didn’t really feel like any of these characters had any sort of growth. Sure, the plot ticks steadily forward, as Superman returns empowered by the still-random Ghosts of Krypton Past, but as cool as some of these scenes were, they lacked substance. And with a few significant questions about how Superman and Lois fit into this new world, and how they’re going to raise a super-son, I want to see a little more focus on that in issues to come.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?