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 9, Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye 1, Green Arrow 9, Nightwing 7 and Trinity 2 . Also, we discussed Green Lanterns 9 on Thursday, and we’ll be discussing Dark Knight III: The Master Race 6 on Tuesday and Superman 9 on Wednesday, so come back for those! As always, this article containers SPOILERS.
Mark: While a lot of Rebirth titles are trafficking in wish fulfillment, few go for the fan jugular as hard as Tom King and Mikel Janin’s Batman. I find this approach to be mostly exhausting (and a classic case of being careful what you wish for), but Batman 9 was the most I’ve appreciated this Batman run so far.
The main reason is Bane — he’s off of Venom and has recruited Psycho Pirate to help keep him in check. And even though he only shows up for a few pages at the beginning of the issue, he’s also the most human character to appear. King is a great writer, and Bane’s introduction here is free from the irony that characterizes so much of this run. King and Janin’s Batman/Bruce Wayne continues to be a little too winking for my taste and too impossibly perfect. It’s a common problem for Batman to be outshined by his rogues gallery, but rarely is he outshined by his rogue because the enemy is more human.
Janin’s art (coupled here with colors by June Chung) is, as always, gorgeous, and Batman 9 contains my single favorite Batman image in recent memory: the Dark Knight’s arrival at Arkham Asylum.
I’m not entirely sure what to make of the 237 counts of murder on Catwoman’s rap sheet . Coming at the end of the issue, I’m guessing we’ll get more context next time. Otherwise it’s so incredibly weird and out of character for her to suddenly be a mass murderer.
Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye 1
Drew: Grammar geek-out incoming: Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye is a weird title for a series. It’s rare enough for a title to contain a verb (especially in comics, which tend to adhere to a strict “name of the protagonist with an optional adjective in front” rule), but it’s especially rare for that verb to be in its present indicative form. Unlike the distance of To Kill a Mockingbird‘s infinitive form, or the immediacy of Do the Right Thing‘s imperative, indicative reads as a flat statement of fact. Cave Carson has a cybernetic eye. It ties the narrative to that fact in a way that simply calling it “Cave Carson” wouldn’t. Imagine if “Batman Fights” were the title of a series — there’d be an expectation that he’d fight in a way that doesn’t exist if the series is just called “Batman” (even though there’s still some expectation that Batman will probably fight someone). Of course, “Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye” goes a step further, introducing an object — “Batman Fights a Cybernetic Eye” is even more specific than “Batman Fights”. Obviously, “Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye” doesn’t suggest the same plot importance that “Batman Fights a Cybernetic Eye” does; that is, Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye is probably about something other than Cave Carson having a cybernetic eye, but at the end of issue 1, I’m not sure I know what that something is.
Indeed, this issue is frustratingly cagey about any facts other than whether Cave Carson has a cybernetic eye, including: who is Cave Carson? Why does he have a cybernetic eye? What does he care about? Why should we care about him? In failing to establish the basic whos and whats of this issue, I find myself decidedly unmoved by its events. It’s clearly not an issue of incompetence — there are moments in this issue where writer Gerard Way relies on simple, clear exposition to establish locations and relationships — but rather, an issue of aesthetics. These facts are omitted intentionally to create mystery, but the effect more closely resembles confusion. Unfortunately, that confusion also applies to the art. Look at how artist Michael Avon Oeming draws Cave in his first three scenes:
Not only do I not yet know who Cave is as a character, I don’t even have a solid grasp on what he looks like. Each of these scenes is also introducing other characters and locations, so it’s not immediately clear that we’re meant to recognize Cave. I like the idea of using beard growth to denote time (and possibly reflect Cave’s mental state in the wake of his wife’s death), but there needs to be more clarity that this is Cave Carson and that these scenes are taking place in consecutive order.
Moreover, I’m not sure the timing quite tracks: it’s not clear how much time passes between that first scene and the second, where Cave goes from clean-shaven to stubbly/scruffy, but we know exactly how much time passes between that second scene and the third, where Cave appears with a fully fleshed-out beard: one day. I can say with some certainty that that’s not how beards work, which is why, on first reading, I assumed that third scene was a flashback (an earlier scene features an old video where Cave has a similar beard). Point is: I’m not just confused about the backstory, which is being kept intentionally (though arguably needlessly) mysterious, I’m confused about the basic story elements of who is in what scene and when those scenes are taking place. It’s a frustrating first issue.
Green Arrow 9
Michael: In the wake of Green Arrow’s “The Ninth Circle” storyline Benjamin Percy has delivered us two semi-epilogues, including Green Arrow 9’s continuation of “Scar Island.” Percy has been determined to bring back the classic elements of Green Arrow including his love for Black Canary and the book’s association with social issues.
Green Arrow 9 features robot bears, a two-faced woman, island-wide drug production and a secret trans-Pacific railway. Oliver and Dinah meet a man native to the island named Ata, who is married to the aforementioned two-faced woman Ana who is holding Diggle prisoner. Together Ana and Ata give us the story of how Scar Island is a wonder of their “elemental technical” creation funded by The Ninth Circle to produce heroin and also make robot bears and stuff.
I often applaud comic books for going into the whimsical realms of weird but that combination of varying elements might be one too many. Because these past few arcs have fewer chapters Percy doesn’t get a whole lot of time to dive deeper on certain things. Ana and Ata’s exposition could’ve used a little more outlining however – making robot bears doesn’t really repopulate the bears on the island.
The social message of Green Arrow 9 was a little depressing actually. With words like “colonialists” and “white men shooting first” floating around its clear what the issue is going for. With the best of intentions, Oliver and Dinah unwittingly set the island and facility ablaze. Oliver feels a momentary bit of guilt before he sees his buddy Diggle and wants to hug him so bad, leaving the destruction behind them. Go team?
Spencer: OK, I admit it: my previous take on Raptor was pretty far off the mark. Based off the issues released up to that point, I think I did a pretty decent job sizing him up at the time, but like an onion, Raptor keeps revealing more and more layers to himself. Raptor’s “rob from the rich give to the poor” anti-hero shtick isn’t new, but his aggressively irreverent personality and wealth of interests and stances are all unique to him, and that mixture of unpredictability and specificity isn’t just building Raptor into an intriguing character, but into an especially potent foil for Dick Grayson.
In the past I thought that Raptor was specifically “playing the role” of Nightwing, but it seems that, at least in terms of his personality, he was being genuine all along. In Nightwing 7, Raptor makes up his own theme song, much like Dick himself did back in Grayson 16 (and to prove Raptor’s commitment to it, we actually see sheet music for “Raptor’s Theme” when Dick knocks Raptor into his music room), and I can’t help but to see this as writer Tim Seeley reinforcing the similarities between the two characters. That’s not to say they’re exactly alike by any means, but considering his background, it’s easy to see Raptor as a version of who Dick could have become if he stuck with the circus. Raptor takes things a step further, believing that he’s who Grayson should have become, and viewing his alliance with Bruce Wayne as a betrayal of their common origins. Raptor’s beef with Wayne digs into ideas of gentrification and cultural whitewashing, but his issues with Grayson are far more personal, and it makes him an especially fierce and dangerous opponent.
The call-back to Grayson’s theme song does make me realize that it’s a bit of a bummer to see Nightwing be so angsty all the time in this series, but I do think Seeley is using the wringer he’s running Dick through to take him to some interesting places. Likewise, while I’m a little tired of seeing poor Javier Fernandez constantly have to draw Nightwing with progressively more rage-filled faces, the rest of his work continues to impress. This goes double for his fight scenes.
Fernandez’s layout choices here really emphasize Nightwing and Raptor’s momentum. In the first panel, the slant follows Nightwing’s path as Raptor slams him to the left. In the second, the slant changes direction as Raptor throws Dick to the right, and the slant widens, opens up into a conical shape, and extends past the gutter, all to reinforce the idea that Raptor’s thrown Dick through a wall and straight into another room entirely. Fernandez’s choices emphasize all the right beats, and it leads to some surprisingly intense action sequences.
Patrick: Our favorite superheroes are sad sacks. Their parents are dead, their homelands are forever lost, their wars on crime are futile (or possibly counter-productive). That makes for a compelling hero, but not for a fully realized human being. Think about how much how you express your happiness informs the person you are. We need to see that happiness in order to understand Diana, to understand Bruce, to understand Clark. Francis Manapul borrows a page from the great Alan Moore story “For the Man Who Has Everything” to shortcut his way to some long-overdue catharsis between grown-up Superman and Pa Kent.
The incident of this issue takes place within the surreally happy fantasy induced by the venom of the Black Mercy flower, and while Manapul holds that specific detail until the final page reveal, he aggressively drops hints right from the title page. Superman’s voice over admits:
“I don’t remember what happened next. How we got into our costumes or how we got here. All I know is I caused my father’s heart to stop beating.”
Superman and the readers are confronted with a development that doesn’t logically make sense, but are forced to ignore it in favor of something that requires immediate attention. By the time Mr. Kent is revived, we’re too emotionally drained to remember how pressing our initial “hey, what’s going on here?” question actually was.
And that’s a relief. It’s always fun to watch Batman figure out that he’s inside some kind of simulation (he’s, like, the only one who ever can), but part of what makes the Black Mercy so intriguing is that it offers an idyllic world for its victims to live in. Clark is overwhelmed by the beauty of the Smallville of his youth, and Manapul is gracious enough to offer some of that awe to us.
If there’s one thing that Moore and Dave Gibbon’s “For The Man Who Has Everything” (which introduced this fantasy-triggering Mercy plant) fails to do, it’s that I’m never taken in by the sheer beauty of the fantasy. Moore writes a lot of sweet turns and relationships that are genuinely moving, and Gibbons performs those scenes well, but there are never panels that are beautiful for the sake of being beautiful. Manapul has the ability to create those moments, totally visually, and for no other purpose than making us all love it. Look at those colors! It’s an autumnal wonderland!
I suspect there will be some eye-rolling at this final page reveal – it is one more piece of ammunition for Alan Moore’s assertion that there are no more original ideas in comics – but it seems like this ground is still fertile. Why not plant some more seeds?
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?