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 24, Dark Knight III: The Master Race 9, Green Lanterns 24, and Superman 24. Also, we’ll be discussing Green Arrow 24 on Friday and Wonder Woman: Steve Trevor 1 on Wednesday, so come back for those! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Michael: Batman 24 ends with Batman asking Catwoman to marry him — we shall see if they actually get to the altar. And while I’m semi-conflicted on this proposal I must say that Tom King, David Finch and Danny Miki craft a powerful and engaging epilogue for the 23 chapters that have come before.
After Psycho Pirate healed her fractured mind, Gotham Girl is reintroduced as a cautiously optimistic hero hopeful. This is the first time I’ve actually liked Claire Clover, a character that serves as a metaphor for the potential of a brighter tomorrow for the Dark Knight.
King explores Batman’s psyche in a way that writers rarely do — by having him talk about his feelings. Gotham Girl isn’t a member of the Bat Family or the Justice League, so Batman extends her an unusual courtesy of complete honesty. I think that Batman’s “I’m scared” bit might be a little simplistic but I do so love how King writes Batman as referring to The Joker as “Him.”
If you’re going to have multiple artists work on a book then you should use Batman 24 as a guidebook. David Finch with Danny Miki and Clay Mann with Seth Mann split the work down the middle: Finch and Miki cover all of the Catwoman scenes and the Manns takes the Gotham Girl scenes. Jordie Bellaire further separates these two sequences by giving Gotham Girl the blinding brightness of daybreak and Catwoman the rain-soaked night.
Hey, here’s a question about that last page where Batman proposes: Does Finch draw the Bat-signal in the background just for a dynamic picture or does this imply that Batman can never truly have love because Gotham needs him?
Dark Knight III: The Master Race 9
Drew: I am not a fan of discussions on whether a work of art “justifies its own existence.” It’s an entirely arbitrary value system, built on disregarding the intrinsic value of artistic expression, but the most offensive thing to me about it is that it crosses the analytical line from description (detailing how and why a work succeeds or fails) to prescription (making recommendations about how the work should have been done). And what a useless prescription — a bit like having your vet skip the diagnosis to explain how pet ownership is wrong in the first place. We need to accept that a work of art exists in order to properly discuss it. All of which is my apology for declaring that The Dark Knight III: The Master Race 9 does a miraculous job of justifying not only its own existence, but that of The Dark Knight Strikes Again and The Dark Knight Returns, as well. To be clear, the justification in this case isn’t to me (or indeed, any reader), but to the comics themselves, as this issue articulates themes that retroactively place all of Frank Miller’s “Dark Knight” work in an almost heartwarmingly optimistic context.
Bruce Wayne has been resurrected, giving him a second chance to save the world, but the issue is less about second chances than it is about passing the baton (and learning from our collaborators). Indeed, Batman doesn’t land a single blow in that final fight, as Superman, the Atom, and Lara step in to do the actual world-saving. He’s just a bystander, watching the giants he inspired. That’s a theme that has the potential to come off as self-indulgent for someone with Miller’s legacy, but the reverence here for those giants makes it clear that Miller isn’t holding himself in immodest esteem. Heck, part of me wants to read Batman’s passivity here as a kind of apology for the way comics were reshaped in the wake of The Dark Knight Returns. The Batman of this issue isn’t some grim lone wolf, saving the world by sheer force of will, but an enthusiastic collaborator, saved by the strength of his colleagues. Heck, Miller, co-writer Brian Azzarello, and artist Andy Kubert make that message as iconically as they can, introducing a second figure to that most famous of DKR images:
What fascinates me most about this idea is that it seems to work on two levels. On the one hand, the turn towards a brighter, more open Batman feels like a corrective to the grim’n’gritty characterizations that followed in the wake of DKR, while the embrace of collaboration feels like a corrective to the auteur narrative that was pushed hard as publishers hoped to establish the medium’s literary bona fides. In short, neither The Dark Knight Returns nor its titular character is what we thought they were.
Intriguingly, while that image closes the feature story, the Miller-drawn backup actually focuses more on the rest of the cast, and offers a spiritual reflection of that closing image with Clark and Lara. And that’s where the point is really driven home. It’s not just about these demigods learning from one another, but what they learn from the rest of the world that makes life beautiful. It’s a startlingly upbeat note for this series to end on, which only emphasizes the point that we all still have plenty to learn.
Green Lanterns 24
Patrick: How do y’all like your mythology? Simple? Straight down the middle of the road? Or do you like that shit complicated with whirling allusions to other times, other places, other realities? If you’re reading Green Lanterns (or any Green Lantern comic for that matter), there’s really no escaping the baroque complexities of the mythos surrounding the power rings. Even as writer Sam Humphries originally set out to tell an earthbound story about the human beings wearing Green Rings, there’s a constant pull toward the narrative arabesque that is “Green Lantern.” Humphries and artists Carlo Barberi, Matt Santorielli and Ulises Arreola present the argument that the more involved with this mythology Jesccia Cruz and Simon Baz become, the more true they are to themselves.
The most straightforward visual representation of this is in Simon learning to ditch his reliance on his sidearm and embrace a multitude of constructs to best Kyle Rayner. Otherwise, that’s kind of a slight story: Kyle and Simon play-fight and have fun. Kind of a snoozer, if not for Simon’s gradual indoctrination into classic lantern-hood. He finds success not by being bold and new, but by playing the game set forth by Green Lanterns before him. It’s goofy, and visually noisy, but it is also undeniably fun.
If you’re keeping tack of crazy constructs, that’s a giant squid (with some kind of cannon-tentacle? like he’s Launch Octopus or something) being lassoed by cowboy Simon, only to be interrupted by glam rocker Kyle. Look, Simon’s so into it that he made both a hat and chaps out of green light!
It’s that same kind of extraneous detail that Humphries embraces by dropping a ten billion year flashback into the middle of this issue. TEN BILLION, YO. That’s a hilariously long time ago. It inspires the same question we asked of Simon in the panels I posted above, but directs it toward the creator. Instead of “why would Simon think to generate chaps?” we ask “Why would Humphries think to bring us back to Mars ten billion years ago?” The answer to both questions is the same: because it’s fun, and that silliness is what Green Lantern stories are.
The lingering question is whether or not there’s a place for Jessica in this Green Lantern world. She marks a win in her training with Guy, and does so with green constructs dancing all around her, so the answer is a tentative yes.
It’s not quite the same, is it? She’s not as carefully constructed as her peers; even Guy’s chainsaw-baseball bat implies a grace that this green fireworks display does not.
Spencer: There are two ways to deal when the future feels uncertain and terrifying (a sensation we’re likely all familiar with right now): you can lash out in fear, or you can hold onto hope for a better tomorrow and take steps to bring that future into being. Those are the stances taken by Manchester Black and Superman, respectively, in Superman 24; it’s no wonder they’re at odds.
That fear is a new emotion for Manchester Black, though, one brought about by the supposed visions of the future he’s seen in his journeys throughout time and space. In his earlier stories Black seemed satisfied to leave Superman alone and let him deal with “gaudy supervillains” as long as Supes didn’t get in his way, but now Black so badly believes that his harsher justice is the only thing capable of saving the world that he’ll brainwash an entire town of innocents and straight-up mentally coerce Superboy into being his dark henchman. That coercion does take the bite out of Black’s earlier attempts to win over Jon (the moral dilemma he’s posing to Jon goes right out the window), but that’s likely the point; fear and violence is a destructive way to confront the future, a stance that can only be perpetuated by spreading more violence and fear in its place.
Hope, on the other hand, lifts people up and makes them better.
People (like Lois) know they can trust Superman. He inspires them and gives them hope, and that is Superman’s greatest power. Manchester Black’s harsh justice may do some good in the immediate present, but it’s also teaching the next generation that fear, violence, and murder are acceptable ways to solve problems. Superman shows people that there’s a better way, raising a new generation that, hopefully, won’t need to fear the future the way we do now. Or, at least, that’s the goal. As unlikely as it may seem, it’s still a goal worth striving for.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?