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 Detective Comics 950, The Flash 16, Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps 14 and New Super-Man. Also, we’ll be discussing Wonder Woman 16 on Friday and All-Star Batman 7 on Tuesday, so come back for those! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Detective Comics 950
Spencer: I’ve been saying for a while that the weakest part of Detective Comics — whose current run I’ve been greatly enjoying otherwise — is the villains, which is probably why issue 950 is such a strong installment: the only “villains” are spoken of in whispers, as things we’ll deal with in the future. Instead, all three of this issue’s stories focus on exploring the heroes, which is where James Tynion IV’s passion clearly lies anyway.
The final story (with Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira, and Adriano Lucas on art) does this in a more clinical manner — in a flashback, Red Robin analyzes the entire Bat-Family and realizes that Batman’s been maneuvering them into positions of strategic importance for an upcoming war — but even that’s interesting for the way it justifies Tynion’s roster choices in-universe. The second tale (with the art team of Alvaro Martinez, Raul Fernandez, and Brad Anderson) mostly serves as a reintroduction to Azrael for any who may have missed/misunderstood his story in Batman and Robin Eternal, but the way Tynion achieves this — by bouncing Azrael against Batwing, his polar opposite — manages to be both entertaining and educational.
Without a doubt, though, the true highlight of this issue is Tynion, Marcio Takara, and Dean White’s opening spotlight on Orphan. The third person narration allows Tynion to dig deeper into Cassandra Cain’s thoughts and relationships while still keeping her at a bit of a distance, which is the whole point of her story to begin with — she feels isolated, misunderstood, and unable to express herself, even when surrounded by allies.
Tynion and Takara return to B&RE‘s most iconic moment — Cass at the ballet — and it turns out to be an incredibly effective method of expressing both Cass’s desires and her frustrations. My heart aches for Cassandra throughout this story, which is what makes the introduction of Lady Shiva — the only one who “hears” Cass — so interesting. In the Pre-New 52 continuity Lady Shiva could “speak” body language just as Cass does, making the deadly, amoral assassin one of the few people truly capable of understanding Cassandra. She was also her mother, so, y’know, I have a feeling that things are going to get complicated — and quite likely heartrending as well. I can’t wait.
The Flash 16
Spencer: What makes the Rogues the Flash’s archenemies? It’s not that their numbers are one of the few things that can overcome his speed, nor even that Cold’s gun slows things down on an atomic level (in contrast to how the Speed Force speeds things up) — no, it’s the fact that the Rogues are selfish cynics, while Barry Allen is a selfless optimist. While Barry’s a hero simply because it’s the right thing to be, the Rogues’ various stabs at heroism have come from more opportunistic or self-preserving places. In Joshua Williamson and Carmine Di Giandomenico’s The Flash 16, it’s something Barry can’t quite wrap his head around, and that, more than any superpower, is what gives the Rogues an edge against the Flash.
As in any good heist story, out-thinking your opponent is the name of the game, and up until his dust-up with Heat Wave, it looks like the Rogues have the Flash thoroughly out-thought. Barry’s big break comes when he tricks Mick and follows him to the rendezvous spot, but even that bit of clever thinking isn’t as spot-on as Barry believes it to be. Barry knows the Rogues will be leaving Central City together because “they’re family,” yet the only reason he’s able to outsmart Mick is because he disobeys Cold’s commands; Mick thinks he can take out the Flash and avoid doing time, but essentially hangs his family out to dry by doing so.
It’s Captain Cold, though, who shines brightest in the thinking department.
His entire plan has revolved around anticipating and countering the Flash’s every move, and the fact that he’s been able to succeed speaks to Cold’s keen analytical mind. It also paints Cold as the more objective, rational of the pair — the cynical Cold can understand people in a way the more optimistic Flash can’t — but I don’t think that’s fully true. Cold already misreads Barry when he claims that he thinks he’s better than the Rogues, and I’d bet he’s underestimated him in other ways, too. Maybe that’s why Flash and the Rogues are locked in such a never-ending conflict — the Rogues feel the need to show up the Flash for his perceived superiority complex, while the Flash just wants to see the Rogues change their ways but can’t catch onto the fact that they’re exactly as good (or bad) as they want to be. It’s a sad dynamic, but man is it compelling.
Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps 14
Michael: A common criticism I make against the Green Lantern Corps is that they’re more of a space army than the “space cops” they’re advertised as. To my delight, Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps 14 opens with the Green Lantern version of a cop enlisting an informant.
Enter Golden Age mainstay “Space Cabbie,” who’s looking a little more Chris Pratt Star-Lord than old timey bus boy but serves the same purpose. It only makes sense that this scoundrelish “criminal” is brought in by an equally scoundrelish Green Lantern: Guy Gardner, the lovable loudmouth. To heighten the space cop vibe, artist Rafa Sandoval has Guy apprehend Cabbie’s ride with a ginormous construct of handcuffs.
A trademark of Sandoval’s throughout Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps is his slanted sliver panels. There are more traditional page layouts throughout the issue, but Sandoval also draws those slanted panels, as if the action is wedging itself into the story from elsewhere.
Maybe it’s because it’s a Green Lantern book and the color spectrum is always on my mind, but these panels often remind me of fractured light through a prism. This was most evident in the spread where Kyle Rayner and Hal Jordan fight their respective battles. It seems like there should be another panel in the focal point of that array though. Robert Venditti gives us some fun banter between Kyle and Hal, but Kyle seems a little too self-aware to me. The way he was cracking wise in a team-up read a lot like Dick Grayson.
New Super-Man 8
Mark: It’s fun to track Kenan Kong’s growth over the first eight issues of New Super-Man. Starting off as your stereotypically snotty teenager, Gene Luen Yang and Billy Tan have done a remarkable job of slowly shaping Kong into a true superhero. The rough edges haven’t been entirely smoothed, but New Super-Man 8 bring Kong closer to encompassing the true compassion and empathy of the best Superpeople.
But the big reveal at the end of the issue is the return/reclamation of Ching Lung. He’s a character I’m not familiar with, but who goes back to Detective Comics 1 in 1937. Not surprisingly, given the times in which he was created, Lung was your typical Yellowface/Asian Peril villain of the 1930’s. It’s interesting to see Tan break from his usual style to faithfully recreate the character here.
As Yang appears to be positioning Lung as the genesis for all of DC’s superheroes, his appearance marks a turning point of sorts for the book. So far New Super-Man has forged its own path in the DC Universe, but, just like Steve Orlando and Fernando Blanco have worked to redefine and update previously embarrassing gay stereotypes into more fully formed characters in Midnighter and Apollo, it’ll be exciting to see where Yang takes Ching Lung.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?
Green lantern corps was a solid opening to the arc. I’m hoping they really explore the corps team up and maybe even explore individual partnerships. Curious I they can show situations where fear is better suited than will.
Flash was excellent. From top to bottom, Williamson is telling the best flash story in over a decade. Just a great classic take on the rogues, while paving new ground with each issue.
I like the idea of Yellows and Greens having to team up like this. It makes every partnership an odd couple!
Yea exactly! I’d love it if a sinestro corps member could no longer wield fear properly based on the good influence of the green lantern they are partnered with. Or vice versa
Also, I feel like it’s a weird function of marketing that HL&tGLC blows Saint Walker’s appearance in this issue on the cover. He’s literally kept a secret until the very last page (unless, y’know, you saw the cover). It could have been a genuinely first pumpin’ moment of excitement, but it comes off as a matter of boring course.
I agree, I think they could have veiled it a bit by putting a ton of hopeful cosmic characters on the cover ( like Mr. Miracle, or Relic, or even braniac 2) and settle on the classic st walker.
I think the moment you name a Green Lantern story ‘The Quest for Hope’, Saint Walker’s appearance will not be a surprise. If an issue of the Quest for Hope is building up to a reveal of a character, it will be Saint Walker. I think that is unavoidable, unless you seriously change the story (like reveal that a major but unexpected character is now a Blue Lantern). The only mystery is when Saint Walker will turn up.
It is just a reality of superhero comics. Even without the covers spoiling it, we all knew that was what was going to happen.
So, going to discuss two different things here that I’ve been thinking about, and are both related to DC’s comics. The LEGO Batman Movie soundtrack and Paul Dini’s Dark Knight: A True Batman story.
Unfortunately, it takes forever for kids movies to get here. The problem with being in the southern hemisphere is that because our seasons are all mixed up, we have different holidays. And here, we like to release our movies around holidays. So while it will be some time before I watch the movie, the soundtrack is all I can enjoy.
I’ve discussed the problems of empty references recently, and surprising no one, the LEGO Batman Movie is built on reference. But from what I can tell, the references are anything but empty.
When you make a movie that combines Batman and LEGO, it has to be referential. The only way for the story to work is to use the distance that the choice to make everything out of LEGO gives you to position the movie as a discussion about Batman. Because if you do anything else, you find yourself asking what makes the choice to make things out of LEGO means, as opposed to normal animation. The only way to justify the use of LEGO blocks is to provide distance.
The LEGO games used that distance to be light parody. Inoffensive, but nothing gamechanging (there is a lot more to say about how the video games use LEGO’s ability to create their central engines of play, but that requires a deeper explanation of the ideas behind the game mechanics and how they interact with the LEGO theme. Video Games are the interesting medium where the author has so much more power to affect how the reader reads the text and therefore require very different critiques that make comparison hard). The LEGO Batman Movie, however, works differently to the games.
So, if the LEGO Batman Movie uses the LEGO nature as a means of discussion, what is it discussing? A big part of it is a celebration of what Batman is (another useful aspect of using LEGO, other than the fact in inherently creates enough distance from the narrative to create a conversation about the narrative? It is literally a toy. You are literally linking the idea of the narrative being discussed with fun).
The soundtrack takes this idea of a celebration seriously. One thing that always annoyed me about the LEGO Batman games is how reliant it was on the soundtracks of the 90s movies (and of the earlier Superman soundtracks). They are truly classic soundtracks, that deserve to be part of our conception of the sound of Batman. But with the exception of the 60s theme, which it sequestered away in the 1960s Batman section and treated like an unwelcome guest, it is only Elfman. And our idea of the auditory vision of Batman should be broader than just Elfman. I would argue that Molossus and the many ways that Hans Zimmer reinterpreted that track is just as iconic. I know the Nolan movies are known for their grounded nature, but is there any reason that Molossus or one of the derivatives isn’t a great fit for your average Batman action scene?
And this is something that the soundtrack takes to heart. It is obviously inspired by Elfman’s legendary work, but it is also inspired by Zimmer and the 60’s show. You have everything, mashed in cleverly. A celebration of Batman’s entire auditory history. Whether it is Zimmer, Elfman or the 60s show, their iconic tunes have been built into the soundtrack, reshaped into a cohesive piece stretching the history of Batman (I haven’t identified anything from Batman v Superman’s soundtrack, but I am also much, much less familiar with it. And while this soundtrack truly celebrates the work of Junkie XL, I do hope that there is part of the soundtrack that is also celebrating Junkie XL’s Batman work, that I simply don’t recognise).
So, the LEGO Batman movie uses the distance provided by the LEGO license to comment on the franchise, and one of its primary points of commentary is celebration, shown in the soundtrack by referencing the Batman franchise’s history of soundtracks in order to celebrate it (note that ‘in order to’. That is why the reference isn’t empty. It is purposeful). But the soundtrack goes much further than that. Because it also expands the sounds of Batman.
To me, the most obvious way it expanded the Batman soundtrack was through the use of Hollywood’s newest soundtrack standby. The new, iconic music used everywhere appears to be Junkie XL’s masterful Mad Max soundtrack, specifically Brothers in Arms (I told you the soundtrack celebrated his work)
Following Moana, LEGO Batman is another soundtrack that is taking inspiration of Junkie XL’s heavy metal ballet. The way the soundtrack creates intensity and the feeling of overwhelming odds is astonishing, as well as a heroic overcoming of those same odds, is incredible, and the fact that its tools are being used by others is a fantastic sign. But of course, it isn’t just about Mad Max. One of the key ways that the LEGO Batman Movie soundtrack expands Batman’s auditory world is how is much cleverer.
Because the LEGO Batman Movie does appear to be more than just a celebrate. A big part of how it discusses the Batman franchise is through critique. This comes down to even the casting. I don’t know which is more telling of a critique. In a story about how Batman needs more than just himself, making Barbara Gordon Hispanic, or casting Billy Dee WIlliams as Two-Face (and basically announcing to the world that it is correcting the injustice that was Tommy Lee Jones stealing Billy Dee WIlliams’ role). This same ideal is featured in the soundtrack.
The trailers have shown that a key part of the movie is how Batman is simply better with the Batfamily. When he has people he loves, a true family around him. And this is represented in the soundtrack itself. Robin’s theme is the essence of innocence, family etc. You can tell the difference between Batman and Robin instantly. There is a section that is tragic, befitting the fact that Dick Grayson’s parents were murdered, but even that depicts his story from a vein of family and humanity, instead of superhero genre.
But what is really smart is how the two worlds of Batman and Robin collide in the soundtrack. A completely different arrangement of the same notes, it takes the fundamental family nature of Robin, and turns it into a Batman hero theme. And most notably, the track itself, No Seat Belts Required, references a scene (at least from what we can infer from the trailers) is about Batman AND Robin, instead of just Robin himself. So the contrasting musical themes of Batman and Robin is combined into a single theme that combines both elements to show a unity. Story told through the music.
Meanwhile, the soundtrack is also full of pop music. Not all of the music is to my tastes, but I think pop is the right choice. As much as I enjoy stuff like that Iron Man song I posted in the comments of Invincible Iron Man 3, which goes for the perfect thematic fit of the content, I think it is right to go for something that is unifying. And pop, love it or hate it, is unifying. And anyway, when you are making a movie out of LEGO, simple, bubblegum pop really fits the tone.
There are a bunch of songs that are chosen because they fit perfectly thematically. One is the perfect song to demonstrate how lonely Batman is, Man in the Mirror is a natural choice for an exploration of identity. Heroes (We Could Be) is another song that works really well, for the actually hero moment. But I’m more interested in the original music.
The big one is, of course, ‘Who’s the (Bat)Man’. A big, bombastic song in the same vein of his hilarious ‘DARKNESS! NO PARENTS’ song from the LEGO Movie. A big song, about Batman bragging about how cool he is. It focuses on all the shit that doesn’t matter, about how he’s the best of everything, he’s the manliest, he commits great violence on bad guys, he’s super rich. Meanwhile, he shows shame at the idea of being Bruce Wayne, as opposed to Batman. Part of me compares this to Trump’s bragging, were it not for the fact that Batman brags about paying taxes. A perfect satirical takedown of shitty Batman takes. In fact, the only thing that, say, the Rebirth Batman has that this song doesn’t directly mock is Batman being an untrusting dickhead to his allies, but that appears to be the rest of the movie’s job to take down.
‘Forever’ is, I assume, the end credits song, in that it is a summary of the entire story. Generic pop song, but presents and arc from Batman as
‘Oh who needs love, who needs love
When the people scream your name
I’m the one, only one who can save us from all the pain’
‘The moment’s now, the broken place, we’re dreaming bigger
The future brings, champion rings, on every finger’
Though the line that really gets me is the start. Even as I don’t like the song, the start is such a punch, such a meanignful summary of the beauty of Batman that it truly affected me
‘I’ll never forget the first time I realized
That the darkness in me can be lightning in the night’
Dark Knight Returns reference aside, that is such a perfect expression of what makes Batman beautiful.
‘Invincible’ is Barbara Gordon’s anthem, which really makes me interested in her. I was really attracted by all the interesting choices being made with her character in the trailers. I love that they made her Hispanic. I love that they got Rosario Dawson to play her. And I truly, truly love the choice to make her Commissioner. It is the sort of thing that is so unexpected, but so, so right (how many origins of Barbara’s origin involve her being forbidden to join the police force? Becoming the Commissioner is such a true depiction of who Barbara is). Invincible suggests that her interactions with Batman will be interesting. THis is a Barbara Gordon who is the centre of her own story. An unstoppable force who is just as interested in being the centre of attention as Batman. But while Batman is all about the ego, she wants lead and rebuild the world. And neither will be stopped. Will create an interesting interaction. The song really makes me think Barbara will be something special
Meanwhile, we have the Robin songs. Both the songs take place after the story, focusing instead on celebrating what Batman and Robin means. ‘Friends Are Family’ is a bit robotic to me, going for the Autotune. But even as a song about Dick celebrating how great it is to find a family with Batman, the song cleverly is proof itself of how great it is to have a Batfamily. The Batman lines in the song have all the features that ‘Who’s the (Bat)Man?’ had, everything we love about Batman (in the case of LEGO Batman, that means his hilariously obsession with his dark, brooding persona and his nature as a badass, but presents a Batman that is broader and more interesting. He has all the stuff that we love, but is also a broader, deeper character that includes a love an empathy for others. A Batman that cares
‘We’re friends but I’m still hardcore,
just as awesome as I am before.
In the darkness, I am brooding.
You are adorably intruding.
But I don’t mind if you’re not irate,
Because we both agree I’m great’
This sequence then ends with the line ‘Let Alfred loose on his guitar’, and a guitar solo by Alfred Fucking Pennyworth. Amazing. And yeah, I love how it comes together. We have all the features that are enjoyable from the beginning, but also a Batman who loves, who cares, who can include other people. Despite the bluster, the Batman of this song is one who loves, who cares and respects both Robin and Alfred. Who is willing to give both of them their own space. Under his bluster, he treats Robin with respect and acceptance. And then he proves himself willing to give up the spotlight to give time to the third member of their family, that he has ignored. Which is why one of Robin’s lines is about how, thanks to forming a BatFamily, Dick finally thinks that Batman is happy, for the first time. Which is exactly how it should go.
And lastly is ‘I Found You’, using Robin’s leitmotif as the basis of the song. And again, it is all a song about just how much better Batman is, now that a BatFamily has formed. That Dick, despite his different life, can relate to Batman and how their coming together has allowed both of them to heal, created something better than what they were before. They both found something better, and are perfecting the idea of Batman and Robin to create the best thing the world has ever seen.
The problem with the songs, as opposed to the soundtrack, is that there is room for improvement in the quality department. But the entire soundtrack, both the songs and the score, are fantastic examples of how the music of a movie can be such an important part of its storytelling. The LEGO Batman trailers have shown a movie that wants to both celebrate and critique the Batman mythos. And the soundtrack is living proof of this. Both in how it builds a sound that embraces the full auditory world of Batman to celebrate it, and in how the score and the songs are used to reinforce the ideas, both through clever lyrics that show character development, and through using the soundtrack itself to show how too seemingly disparate ideas, like Batman’s brooding darkness and RObin’s good natured light, can blend together into a perfect combination.
Listening to the soundtrack has made me even more excited for the movie. Can’t wait for it to finally arrive down here
May wait to do Dark Night tomorrow, as this comment is long, adn I want to give Dark Night the time it deserves. Really good comic
Dark Knight: A True Batman Story: This is an impressive book. TO those who don’t know, Paul Dini, one of the most iconic Batman writers of all time thanks to his work both in the comics and, most importantly, on Batman: The Animated Series, doing an autobiographical comic about the time he was mugged.
The comic is incredibly brutal in how Dini depicts himself. Ignoring the Batman elements, this is a savage self reflection at who Dini used to be. Dini is sympathetic, but also astonishingly flawed. The honesty in which he presents the many problems he had back then, even before the mugging,is powerful. Especially due to the realistic choice to use his power to rewrite history and have all of those problems fixed by the end of the story. In fact, Dini admits that he still had a lot to fix even after the events. Dini discusses dark content about himself, and creates a truly compelling narrative
And this is combined with the Batman stuff. The subtitle isn’t for show. THe key idea of this story is that Dini imagines up Batman and his Rogue’s Gallery, as representations of his subconscious that he talks to. And after the aftermath of a mugging attempts to break him, we get the tale of how Batman saved Dini.
Dini truly gets the Rogue’s Gallery. Poison Ivy attacks all of DIni’s insecurities, especially around women. Penguin guides him to drink. Two-Face is the man in the mirror, the suggestion that there is something ugly on the inside. And then there is the Joker. The Joker’s suggestion is to just give up. Give up entirely. Such a great depiction. Even before the mugging, they taunt him. But after the mugging, their assault threatens to break him. But what really gets this to work is that Dini is actually tapping a fundamental truth of these characters. How they are our worst sides, the sides of us that destroy us. Insecurity. Self Destruction. Self Hatred. Dini taps into the exact psychology that makes these characters iconic. THey are not great villains because of the people they kill, or the buildings they destroy. But because of that dark psychology. I keep thinking back to the Joker in this. Because it is so true. Because what truly makes the Joker horrible isn’t that he killed Jason Todd, or crippled Barbara Gordon, but because he wants to break our souls. To truly give up on the idea of meaning and value.
And then, there is Batman. Batman is tough. He is never as seductive as the villains themselves.You don’t want to follow Batman’s path. But what Dini shows is that Batman’s path is the one we need to take.It may be hard, but Batman inspires us to be better. To take the dark stuff that happens and get better. And it isn’t just empty platitudes. Dini’s imaginstion crafts a Batman that offers real solutions. real plans to move forward, and to protect himself. His value is not in empty platitudes. But in creating solutions. Because you can’t just move on. Just as Batman will never forget Crime Alley, Dini will cringe when someone touches his face. But you don’t let that rule you. Batman is the voice in the darkness who tells us to stand up. To ge tback up, and to fight. To build solutions and not let yourself be defeated. That is Batman’s value. Powerful and beautiful. Dini needed more than just Batman to help him through, but that is how Batman also saves us in real life. How Batman inspires us to be more than just the victim of the things that happen to us, but survivors who refuse to be the victim and instead choose to be their own heroes.
I’ve said before that Batman is supposed to be out best response to trauma. And nothing depicts it better than this. That climax, set in the modern day with Dini plagued by those same doubts/faced by those same villains, and so effortlessly managing to work through it because he has put the effort in not letting those dark parts of his mind define him? Beautiful
Also, the art is amazing. It shifts wonderfully naturally between realism and cartoonish exaggeration, without breaking the moody tone. Coloured in strong colours and lots of blacks, the very art itself really reflects the inner mind of Dini. But one of my favourite choices is how the comic book characters are depicted themselves. The obvious choice would be to draw them in the style of Batman: The Animated Series. BUt Risso goes for something else. Harley Quinn, a character defined (especially in the time the book is set) by the show, is the closest to the show’s look. But even she id designed to be something different, something more… elemental. And as characters have broader and broader histories, Risso goes even braver in his designs. THey look the fundamental forces. A true form, existing as an almost unearthly entity that we know only from how artists interpret it. Like fantastical creature of the mind
This is a real treat. A powerful story that I was surprised at how good it was. I shouldn’t have waited so long to read it. Highly recommended