DC Round-Up: Comics Released 9/7/16

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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 Green Arrow 6, Nightwing 4, and Superman 6. Also, we discussed Supergirl 1 yesterday and we’ll be talking about Batman 6 on Monday, so come back for that! As always, this article containers SPOILERS.

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Green Arrow 6

green-arrow-6Michael: I first became aware of Stephen Byrne’s art on Twitter; and the dude has got some talent, you guys. Byrne makes his debut on the title in this week’s Green Arrow 6, which focuses on Oliver’s half-sister, half-sidekick Emiko Queen. Byrne draws whimsical characters glisten with a lively glow – an aesthetic that feels completely appropriate for the larger-than-life youngster. (Do we know how old she is again? I wanna say as old as Damian Wayne. I’m still waiting for those two to team up.)

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Writer Benjamin Percy splits up the issue into past and present. This split is best captured by the title page, where Emiko is having a nightmare about being torn between her brother and her mother. In the present, Emiko is trying to free her mother Shado from her current master Obuyan. In the past Emiko is infiltrating a gang run by the Clock King. Clock King gives Emiko a “mechanical speed” watch that she becomes addicted to like a drug – making her crazy efficient with her time but having bad withdrawals on the back end. Could Percy and Byrne be echoing a certain famous “my ward is a junkie” storyline? Up until this point, Emiko has just been a quippy, sometimes back-stabby little sister. I think that this “Sins of the Mother” arc will help establish a deeper connection between Ollie and Emiko.

The continuity fiend in me is getting caught up in reconciling this Clock King with The New 52 crime boss Clock King and the log underwear Clock King from Deathstroke – I’ll try to let it go.

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Nightwing 4

niightwing-4Spencer: So it turns out that this arc’s title, “Better Than Batman,” was never referring to Raptor at all, but to Nightwing himself. With Nightwing 4, Tim Seeley and Javier Fernandez show us a Nightwing who can complete a mission his way: through trust, teamwork, and perhaps just a bit of moral flexibility.

That last point is one Batman, of course, isn’t very happy about. Despite an attack from a “God” (which takes the Owls’ elitism to its ultimate ending point; they’ve always considered themselves above commoners due to their wealth, Moloch is just a literal, physical manifestation of that God Complex), Batman is easily the most difficult opponent Dick’s faced this entire arc. This time, though, Dick may just have the upper hand.

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In many ways, this conflict is a common one between parent and child. Every (good) parent wants their child to surpass them, to lead a better life and just be better than them, but even the best parent can sometimes get flustered when it actually happens, or when it happens in a way they didn’t anticipate. Dick’s abilities to lead and to naturally connect with people have always been touted as areas in which he surpasses Batman, and with all the information we have up to this point in the issue, that’s exactly what I’d chalk their argument up to. After all, we’ve already seen how effective Dick’s methods turned out to be.

But then…but then, Raptor shows his true colors and throws my entire reading off. Raptor makes so much more sense to me as a character now; all his inconsistencies are very much on purpose, as he’s clearly playing a role in order to get Nightwing on his side. I could be off, but I’d peg him as a straight-up sociopath; I’m assuming he’s not actually from the circus, and was just planting clues that he is in order to gain Dick’s affection. If so, those parting words about Dick’s mom are especially heartless.

Ultimately, though, the role Raptor seems to be playing is the role of Nightwing himself.

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Several times throughout Nightwing 4 we see the similarities between Dick and Raptor highlighted; they have many of the same goals and mannerisms, even if they came to their mission from opposite sides of the law. The question now is, if Raptor was simply using Nightwing’s methods to manipulate and deceive him, and if Dick’s trust in Raptor is misplaced, then does that mean he’s in the wrong in his argument with Batman? Does that mean Nightwing would be a better hero if he was just like Batman? It’s not necessarily the most original question to pose, but I’m interested to see Seeley’s answer to it regardless.

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Superman 6

superman-6Shane: Well, if we were wondering how Batman would feel about Superman crashing his Moon-Batcave, we get our answer in this issue. All that and more! The random inclusion of all the Kryptonian spirits sort of comes full circle in a few ways, as Superman uses their power to defeat the Eradicator (bringing back an old friend in the process), while the spirits validate Superman’s legacy — against everything Eradicator has been saying — in a pretty heartwarming display of fireworks. And those fireworks are, arguably, the biggest part of it, because they help announce Superman’s existence to the world. After all, when an energy meteor is rising from the moon, you sort of have to take notice, and through powerful telescopes, everyone saw Superman — a new Superman, replacing the one they lost — saving the day, in front of an iconic lunar monument, no less. It’s a picture-perfect moment, and just one of the few in the issue.

I’m not going to say that I understand or love how the spirits became a huge focus of this arc, and I definitely think it muddled the story, but it definitely helped get us from point A (a very, very complicated Superman situation) to point B (he’s once again the beloved world hero). Action Comics is going through the same thing, extending the drama of multiple Clarks, Loises and Supermans out to further arcs, but I really look forward to the main Superman title moving forward to tell iconic and positive Superman stories. Tomasi and Gleason seem all for that, with this issue full of timeless moments. Starting with the scene on the moon, Superman goes on to receive the keys to the city, and then confronts the Justice League in a way that’s absolutely perfect for the character:

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Man, look at that. Some fine artwork from Patrick Gleason, presenting our hero in all his glory: he’s beaming, and in more ways than one. The New 52 Superman had his time, during which this Superman got to mope around in the shadows, hiding to protect his family. But now, he’s back in the spotlight, with his son — officially, and finally, Superboy — at his side. Let’s do this.

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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 9/7/16

  1. Batman – the Telltale Game: So I’ve been busy, and haven’t had the chance to read any of Ostrander’s Suicide Squad as I planned. But I did play the first chapter of the new Batman Telltale game and am impressed.

    One of the best things about it is how hard it is to find a comparison. The obvious choice would be to compare it to Netflix’s Daredevil, but that is a very superficial comparison. It has a similar narrative space, but Netflix’s Daredevil treats the lead as Daredevil first, Matt Murdock second. In fact, it is probably closer to Bendis’ fantastic Daredevil run, which was Matt Murdock first, Daredevil second. But even that run was built off a Matt Murdock dealing with Daredevil’s history. Telltale’s new game doesn’t do that. Batman’s history is meaningless (which is part of the reason why this is set pretty early in Batman’s career), while Bruce’s history is so important. And that is what is so great. This really feels like no other Batman story.

    And that was the great fear, ever since I heard that the story was about Harvey Dent’s campaign for mayor. I felt it was going to be another Two Face origin, which we really didn’t need. But Telltale really goes above and beyond in creating a new space.

    The opening is a fantastic statement of intent. When the criminals break into the building and set off the alarm, it is all framed slightly differently to what you expect. There is a focus on technology that Batman doesn’t usually have. It still has all the noir hallmarks of Batman, but this story isn’t your usual superhero neo-noir. This is a neo-noir techno-thriller. And that emphasis on technology helps create a slightly different depiction of Batman. The emphasis on technology creates a similar emphasis on planning (Catwoman’s use of gadgets is a clear sign of her competency, especially compared to the other crooks whose incompetency is highlighted by how they fail to take into account technology. Meanwhile, Batman’s new tool is a drone, empowering him with the ability to plan and control the situation. This is the perfect match for this Batman’s more proactive interests). This emphasis on the idea that everyone is planning fits perfectly into a Batman story built around a large cast who all have proactive goals, and are working towards them
    But the real statement in the opening is when Batman appears. He leaps, breaks through a window and the moment before he hits the crook… a hard cut to Alfred patching him up in Wayne Manor (and not the Batcave). This is a Bruce Wayne game.

    And that’s the key idea, which makes this great. This is a story abut Bruce Wayne’s attempts to save the city. Batman is just a small part of Bruce’s overarching efforts to save the city. It takes cues from stories like the Dark Knight and the Court of Owls, where Bruce Wayne’s philanthropy and political efforts are highlighted, but in this game, they aren’t merely highlighted, they are the story. The goal in this game isn’t to stop the Joker, it is to get Harvey elected, and to close Arkham done so it can be replaced by a better facility. And Batman exists only so that Bruce Wayne can further this goal in other ways – the fantastic bait and switch of the opening is the reveal that criminals were stealing from the corrupt Mayor Hill, and that Batman’s interests in the events is in part about finding out about what secrets Hill is hiding. This same idea is used again every other time Batman is on screen. Ultimately, everything Batman does is around the election. Batman exists to serve Bruce Wayne’s goals, instead of the other way around. It is incredible, and the perfect evolution of the work done by Scott Snyder. If Scott Snyder’s Batman was about standing up to darkness and facing it, then the next stage is to be political. A Batman that is actually attempting to reshape Gotham.

    But of course, the game is about so much more than Batman uncovering corruption (including actual detective work!). Ultimately, the true story is around Bruce Wayne’s attempts to save the city is a very complex tapestry. The Batman stuff is a single thread, and other thread include the corrupt establishment (complete with Falcone pulling the strings), the return of Bruce’s childhood friend Oswold Cobblepot, preaching dark revolution (I would never have thought to do Penguin like this, but Bruce’s best friend going through similar trauma and turning hateful and bitter is a great variant) and a shocking assault on the Wayne name. It is this last one that really amazes, because unlike the others, which have major crossover between Bruce and Batman, this truly is a Bruce Wayne story. The destruction of the Wayne’s good name, the destruction of the Wayne Legacy, is such a unique attack. Grant Morrison had the idea first, in Batman RIP, but only as a minor idea. Here, it is front and centre. The main plot. How will Bruce Wayne deal with such an attack on his family, on his parents? And how will he do so without letting it derail his political ambitions to make Harvey Dent mayor and fix the city?

    This is combined with great characters. Harvey Dent is done really well. Instead of being the pure, incorruptible figure he usually is, he is a good man who sometimes finds himself being led astray by the necessities of being in Gotham. There’s something complex about his position that feels like it could be interesting when combined with his fall to the overly simplistic duality of Two Face. And there is a dorky lunkiness to him that makes him sympathetic. Vicki Vale still requires a little more attention, but there is a lot of potential in how she is placed basically as Bruce’s sidekick. His ally in his investigations. Gordon so far is pretty typical (and sounds wrong when it doesn’t sound like Gary Oldman). Oswold is done is such a way to never forget that he is an actual estranged friend to Bruce, and that he still cares for Bruce, even as he is bitter, anger and already tied up in a movement that he knows will pit them against each other. And the bitterness is well played – you can see how Oswold could lose the values he is currently preaching to turn into the Penguin, and why. And Catwoman is excellent. They get that initial flirtation perfect. It is actually very clever how they write her. As a giant Catwoman fan, it has everything I would want from her this early in her story. And they do that, they give us all the pieces of her psychology, while already creating a great, subtly flirtatious dynamic as they enjoy a delicate dance together, both in combat and in wits. And then there is an incredibly fascinating choice they make with her, when she first appears as Selina Kyle. Something gamechanging, that rewrites the book and actually creates a more interesting story because of it. True to their dynamic, but so much richer. Catwoman is strongly defined as the Anti-Batman, is given a powerful, entrancing dynamic with Batman, and all of this is done without sacrificing her own needs. She is not just there as a love interest or fan service. And their flirtations are secondary to the fact that they have have their own needs and their own missions, and they have to navigate around each other. She remains the lead in her own story. And that is an important thing, because the story is built around the fact that everyone has a vision of Gotham they are trying to fulfil. The tragedy of Catwoman is that she will never be Queen, but this follows the steps of the best Catwoman stories where she refuses to be a pawn. Honestly, the reason the dynamic between them works so well is that both of these characters refuse to give an inch. That instead of doing the traditional flirtation, they fight for what they want. What makes them interested in each other is that they see someone who is actually willing to fight as hard as they do. Can’t wait to see where it develops, as I think it is the strongest dynamic they have

    And the music is excellent, really placing the emphasis on the gothic noir aspects. Pleasingly over the top. Presentation suffers from the problems you’d expect – only so many models, only able to have so many models in one scene, but I love the art direction. It really creates a fantastic vision of Gotham. And one that feels personal to this vision of Batman – the trains are obviously reminiscent of Batman Begins, but are different enough that you can tell that it is Telltale’s techno-thriller vision. And the omnipresence of political posters really helps depict a political Gotham.

    If there is a problem, it is with Bruce Wayne/Batman. He is frequently written well – the Catwoman stuff only works because both sides of the dynamic are strong, and there is a truly powerful moment of Bruce discussing how his parents would still be alive if there was a proper mental health facility dedicated to giving help to those that need it instead of the broken Arkham Asylum. But the need to give players choices on a character like Batman does mean that there are times where he feels wrong out of a need to provide a broad enough array of options. There is always (sigh) someone who wants to play the psychopath Batman, and even as I avoided those choices, there were still a couple of lines that felt wrong for my Batman because it was trying to keep that option open.

    Also, I really wish the episode didn’t end with an ad for DC Rebirth. Leaving aside my massive dislike for Rebirth, I don’t like feeling that the entire thing is an ad. Of course, one of the reasons why this game was made was for cross media synergy and brand management. But do they have to be in your face about it? Because I’d rather focus on all the other reasons this game existed.

    Still, the big thing is that the game was great. I was really worried that it would just repeat a story told too many times before. It really felt like it was going back to a well already well drunk of. But it’s vision of Batman as a political noir techno-thriller was so new, that I loved it. Fresh, interesting, and well written. I’ve been the chance to dig into a good Batman story like this. Can’t wait for the next episode

      • Console or PC game, though it will soon come out on Apple and Android devices.

        Telltale Games’ speciality is creating adventure games that play like interactive movies. Heavily story based, with the player interacting to influence that story. For example, during action sequences, there are button prompts that affect how the battle goes, while during moments where there is a crime scene, for example, you can explore the scene as Batman and solve the case.
        But the key gameplay is the dialogue system. In dialogue scenes, you are given multiple options, and a timer, and you have to quickly choose your options, which the game then remembers, often calling back to previous choices. Especially for major choices (the famous example of this is the Telltale Walking Dead game, which would give you a choice of which person to save).
        So the game is all about how your choices, small or large, influence the story being told. You make the influence with your choices who the hero is, and what choices they make (is Batman a hero, or a psycho? Does Bruce Wayne trust the press? How does Bruce deal with Falcone crashing his party?) and the game reacts, with everyone getting their own, personal version of the same story. I’d suggest watching a video on YouTube, which will show what sort of games I’m talking about.

        And, quite awesomely, with the new Batman game, they have introduced a new feature that actually lets other people vote on choices, allowing you to have a bunch of people play together and vote on which option they want to do.

        Telltale have made a brand out of this sort of game, and between that strong brand and the fact that this game had to be named in such a way to differentiate it from the other Batman games, it was simply called Batman – the Telltale Series. Each game is split into five or six episodes, creating a season of content. So my comment was about the first episode, and there are four more that will be released, telling the entire story. They’ve only released the first episode so far, with more to come, but they have a backlog that includes games based on the Walking Dead (the first season of that is fantastic, the second is a bit weaker) and Fables (a really good prequel to the comic, called the Wolf Among Us), alongside games based on Game of Thrones (decent, but disappointing), Minecraft (apparently really bad) and Borderlands (one of their best). Batman is the latest, and they are apparently working on a Marvel game.

        I’d recommend the games. And I’m really happy with how the Batman game is so far. They look to have a really good story, told with lots of intelligence (one moment I wanted to mention, but forgot, was the great choice to have Bruce Wayne’s Lamborghini be able to transform into the Batmobile. Wonderfully visual representation of their depiction of Batman). If the idea of an interactive story sounds cool, seek the games out

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