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 13, Green Arrow 13, Superman 13, and Trinity 4. Also, we’ll be discussing Nightwing 11 on Friday, so come back for that! As always, this article containers SPOILERS!
The chances of the plan succeeding are inversely proportional to how much of the plan the audience knows about beforehand.
TV Tropes and Idioms, “Unspoken Plan Guarantee”
Drew: There are countless examples of the “Unspoken Plan Guarantee” trope, but the one that springs immediately to mind is Ocean’s Eleven, where a great deal of the suspense comes from us thinking the plan has gone wrong, but only because we aren’t actually privy to the plan beforehand. When done poorly, a story’s caginess about the plan can’t help but feel suspicious, but when done right, it makes the heroes look impossibly slick, always staying one step ahead of the villains and the audience. Mileage will vary whether those joys outweigh the familiarity that trope has in the wake of Ocean’s Eleven, but I’m generally willing to embrace a well-executed secret plan so long as it has fun with those reveals. Tom King and Mikel Janín definitely have that kind of fun with Batman 13, making their hyper-competent Batman even more prepared than they initially let on.
This issue acts in many ways like the climax of any Ocean’s film — not just the heist, but the specific moment of the heist when it seems like things have hopelessly gone awry. This is our characters at their lowest moment, only, it turns out this “low moment” was part of the plan all along. It allows the characters to swing from utter defeat to soaring success in the course of a few moments (even though, again, the “utter defeat” part turns out to be a put-on). In this case, it also requires following characters through four different scenes as their plan falls into place. Fortunately, Janín has more than a few tricks up his sleeve to manage all of those threads.
Punch and Jewlee end up getting the majority of the space in this particular spread, but Janín manages to check in with everyone on almost every page of this issue. That Wesker is basically standing still throughout this sequence might make those check-ins feel gimmicky, but I found those moments to be remarkably effective. He’s standing still, like the “little guy” Homer can’t keep his eyes off of when the Yakuza battle the Mafia in “The Twisted World of Marge Simpson” — he’s going to do something, and you know it’s going to be good. That the plan worked out in the end may not have been a surprise, but seeing how it worked out was an absolute blast.
Green Arrow 13
Michael: I like the current run of Green Arrow for a couple of reasons: Oliver has a goatee again, Dinah and Ollie are an item again and most importantly, it plays against type. In many stories of its kind Dinah and Ollie would’ve broken up after a classic misunderstanding, but thankfully Benjamin Percy and co. haven’t played it that way (yet.) Another example is how Green Arrow 13 is the second chapter of “Emerald Outlaw” and the mysterious killer remains just that – we aren’t spoon-fed clues and breadcrumbs of where the plot is headed. I guess what I like most of all is that Percy doesn’t treat his readers like they’re idiots.
If Green Arrow 13 is indeed a mystery then Percy treats it as such with the utmost respect. There are various threads weaving in and out of the narrative – a Trumpian stooge mayoral candidate and a crap cop turned vigilante – that are never explicitly painted as the culprit. Someone is trying to squander Green Arrow’s public good will by framing him for murder. Most likely Queen Industries’ Cyrus Broderick but Percy plays it like anyone is a suspect – even (the unnamed) Roy Harper.
Artist Otto Schmidt does a lot of layering with his panel sequences in Green Arrow 13. Sometimes these panels inject themselves against negative space, highlighting one of Fyffe’s jokes. Other times they are laid atop the action, as we see a red background of a leg belonging to Black Canary or “Vice Squad.” I’m happy Green Arrow continues to deliver.
Spencer: Sometimes Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s stories truly surprise me, not just with the direction they take, but with the speed in which they run through wonderfully ridiculous new ideas. That’s surely the case with their “Super-monster” storyline, which concludes in this week’s Superman 13. We go from “Lois has a job interview” to “Lois’ boss has been replaced by an intergalactic despot” to “Frankenstein family feud” at a blistering pace, but thankfully, all these ideas are more than entertaining enough to carry the story. More importantly, though, Tomasi, Gleason, and artist Doug Mahnke continue to hone in on the theme of “family” that’s been carrying this title from the start.
Oddly enough, it’s not the Superman family that’s gets the focus here, but Frankenstein’s instead, all kicked off when his “bride” shows up, decked out in full bounty hunter regalia.
I know this creative team didn’t create this version of the character, but I still adore her design, the way some classic Bride of Frankenstein-isms are combined with the leather and guns and the four arms; it’s just a fun, unique look. Bride carries with her a lot of pain, however, and despite all the fun of her design and all the bombast of her and Frankenstein’s fight, their tale ends on a particularly somber note.
In contrast, the creative team ends the issue in a much happier place — Lois and Clark lovingly tucking Jon into bed — which just begs comparisons between the two families. I don’t think the fate of the Frankensteins’ son or their marriage is meant to foreshadow any events in the lives of the Kents/”Smiths,” but I do think they provide a powerful reminder of how quickly love can turn to hate, how easily we can lose the ones we love, and how irreparably damaged even the closest relationship can become if we’re not careful. The Frankensteins remind, not just Lois and Clark, but all of us of how important family is, and how we need to properly cherish and care for all the ones we love while we still can.
Mark: After three issues of Francis Manapul riffing on the seminal Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons Superman Annual #11 – For The Man Who Has Everything, I’m curious what the point of this exercise will be in the end.
In the original story, Wonder Woman is not trapped by Mongul’s plant and her heart’s deepest desire is never revealed. Here, Diana opens the issue saying she’s ready to discover “the truth,” but, unlike Superman and Batman’s issues, her struggle never feels real. After proving herself worthy through her performance in the Games, Wonder Woman is welcomed by her mother to stay on Themyscira (although it’s unclear if Hippolyta ever recognizes Diana as a doppelgänger of her daughter). But in the end, Wonder Woman decides to leave with Superman and Batman after they are banished. Hippolyta helpfully explains Wonder Woman’s decision by saying that Diana’s “path lies elsewhere.”
Despite being rather facile, I’m fine in theory with “path lies elsewhere” being The Truth Diana learns about herself, but it doesn’t work emotionally because the issue does nothing to sell the idea. Diana lands on Themyscira with Batman and Superman, the three of them prove themselves worthy, Batman and Superman are banished from the island, and Wonder Woman decides to join them because she doesn’t feel right having them go on their own. But why doesn’t she feel right about it? The stakes are never made clear and we’re robbed of the moment she takes this stand. Never is there a sense that it’s a difficult decision for her to make.
When dealing with such familiar ideas, the emotional tenor of an issue is what will sell it, and the coldness of Trinity 4 brings the whole thing down. So far Trinity is too much like the 1998 Gus Van Sant remake of Psycho: faithful to For The Man Who Has Everything in execution, but lacking the original’s raison d’être.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?