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 11, Green Arrow 11, Green Lanterns 11 and Trinity 3. Also, we will be discussing Nightwing 9 on Monday and Superman 11 on Tuesday, so come back for those! As always, this article containers SPOILERS.
Spencer: This is easily my favorite issue of Tom King’s run on Batman to date. First of all, the artistic team are at the top of their game. Colorist June Chung makes some transcendent choices, from the shot of Batman in silhouette, lit only by the purple of his cape, to the unique shades of yellow and red that fill the background of two key scenes. Those two shades are not only stylish, but accent the mood of each moment perfectly: if the yellow Chung uses to shade Batman and Catwoman’s chase is meant to show their relationship approaching its end (like a yellow traffic light), then the red that accents Selina’s betrayal emphasizes the final, ultimate destruction of anything that could have been between the two.
Artist Mikel Janin too gets to cut loose, finally getting to put his good-looking, diverse designs for Batman’s makeshift Suicide Squad into action. The most enthralling shot, of course, is Catwoman and the Ventriloquist transversing the pipes beneath Santa Prisca.
It’s one of the better written scenes, too. King smartly uses Wesker as a contrast to Selina; while Wesker is ultimately helpless against the whims of Scarface and generally feels better when he’s gone, Selina’s “monster” never leaves her, and she even implies that whatever monstrous impulses are driving her now are allowing her to do what she “needs” to do. That’s certainly evident by the end of the issue; when discussing Batman 10 I pointed out how Selina’s 237 murders perfectly highlighted her unique balance of selfishness and selflessness, but here Selina murders almost gleefully and for no reason other than self-interest. She’s giving into her “monster” to save her own skin — or perhaps using it as a justification to give into her more monstrous impulses.
Perhaps most welcome is what King does with Batman himself. The dark knight has been almost frustratingly competent under King’s pen, and at first it looks like we’re getting more of the same: his team is perfectly suited to this particular jail break, and everything’s going according to plan. Catwoman’s betrayal, though, throws a wrench in all that. It’s implied that Batman chose Selina for this mission in the first place in hopes of getting her out of the death penalty, meaning that not only did Bruce fail to read her properly, but that he let himself be blinded by his own emotions and desires. Catwoman is Batman’s biggest weakness, and her presence not only elevates Batman as a character, but the rest of this story as well.
Green Arrow 11
Michael: I think that superhero comic books will always have a leg up on superhero movies when it comes to suspending one’s disbelief. It would be a tall order to accept a Ferrari alongside a bullet train racing against a flooded underwater tunnel in a movie but in the comic book that is Green Arrow 11? That’s what makes it work, boys and girls.
Impossible feats in the midst of impossible odds is what makes a good superhero book and that’s just what Benjamin Percy and Juan E. Ferreyra give us. Percy and Ferreyra make it clear that it’s a team effort to make sure The Empire Express makes its maiden (final?) voyage back in one piece. Percy has shown us time and again how important Black Canary is to this book and to Oliver. Maybe I’m biased for being a preboot fan but I do so love Dinah and Oliver’s gushing romance.
Juan E. Ferreyra has got the juice you guys. He’s another reason that Canary shines in Green Arrow 11. He draws her in seamless action from one opponent to the next – another technique that comics can achieve that movies cannot. It would be simple enough to have Green Arrow fight mercenary Fyers in an unchanging blue underwater background. Instead Ferreyra changes the POV among Oliver, Fyers and the passengers below to keep things interesting and engaging.
Perhaps best/saddest of all there is a cameo by a Hillary Clinton-ish figure who declares that in the face of this great calamity (the diplomat assassination/train crash) it’s even more important to discuss peace.
Green Lanterns 11
Patrick: We’ve probably got too many Green Lanterns running around the DC Universe right now. As usual, there’s the uncountable mass of them in space, protecting the universe from the same five threats over and over again (seriously – Sinestro and “one of the Guardians” have shown up to the party so many times, I’m sure they’re due a free sub), but there’s even a glut of the motherfuckers on Earth. Writer Sam Humphries explores some of the stranger ways this Green Lantern ubiquity effects how we view heroism and the right to be heroic in Green Lanterns 11.
Frank Laminski is still in possession of the Phantom Ring, and rather than going straight to trying to murder all the Green Lanterns (he’ll get there, I promise), he dresses himself up like a Green Lantern and does some genuine hero-ing. Mind you, it’s a toothless threat for a Green Lantern — Frank rescues a small family from a tornado — and he will not stop patting himself on the back for the accomplishment. Frank is obnoxious in this moment, and is perhaps wasting his power on small-scale heroics, but it’s hard to argue with the fact that he did save a couple lives. Regardless of how hard I just said it would be to argue, Baz and Cruz show up on the scene and do just that. The basis of their claim is that Laminski stole the ring and therefore doesn’t “deserve” that power. Naturally, this causes both Cruz and Baz to reflect on the circumstances surrounding their own ring-acquisition. It’s a frustrating couple pages, if only because I can so strongly identify with Simon and Jessica’s self-doubt, and their casting aspersions on Frank’s intentions looks an awful lot like me at my most hypocritical. I mean, whose job is it to judge the heroes actually doing the hard work and getting results? Jessica’s? Simon’s? Mine?
Fully acknowledging the irony of this transition: That’s a neat idea to ponder, but I wish Humphries and artist Robson Rocha had found a more active way to play this game. Frank’s heroic deed is singular – he saves one kid and one dog from one tornado. The first two pages show Frank zipping through the atmosphere, covering hundreds of miles in what appears to be seconds.
That’s a fun page, and one that gives a sense of what Frank can do as Phantom Lantern. But when he turns on “save the day” mode, his accomplishments are so tiny and his ego so inflated that it makes Jessica and Simon’s self-doubt seem like a weird reaction. If the Phantom Lantern was stomping out global-scale threats our heroes didn’t even know about yet, it might make the drama more meaningful. As it stands, it’s kind of a trite, meaningless argument between GLs that are all afraid of being posers that triggers the Phantom Ring’s orange protocol and turns Frank into an Agent of Avarice.
Mark: In Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens much is made of the mystery surrounding our hero Rey’s parentage. One popular fan theory is that Rey is a Skywalker, maybe the daughter of Luke. I hope this fan theory is wrong. Making Rey a Skywalker compresses the universe of Star Wars to the extreme. Who of importance in this universe isn’t either a Skywalker or friends with a Skywalker?
I bring up questionable Star Wars fan theories because, just as a Rey Skywalker seems limiting to the universe of that franchise, Francis Manapul and Clay Mann’s Trinity 3 similarly finds Batman in the coil of cliche.
Blame this year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice for officially turning the deaths of Thomas and Martha Wayne into a played-out joke. From that film’s overwrought opening sequence, to the facepalm-worthy Martha Connection that ends our heroes’ brawl, the death of Batman’s parents feels — gulp — played out. What more is there to possibly say about the ripple effects of that night in Crime Alley?
By damning Bruce Wayne to be forever caught in an endless whirlpool of grief, writers limit the potential of Batman’s universe. It’s reductive even considering the cyclical nature of comic books, demanding the occassional reset back to the status quo. Batman’s origin is an important catalyst, but I believe it’s possible for him to be informed by the tragic events of his past without them being the sole focal point of his existence. Marvel’s Spider-Man is an instructive example. Uncle Ben is still way dead of course, but it’s rare for an issue of Spider-Man to bring it up, much less revolve around it. Yet we never question if Ben Parker’s death is still felt in the universe. Much like real-life, Spider-Man soldiers on. Batman should do the same.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?