Challenging Batman’s Central Conceit in Batman 35

by Drew Baumgartner

Batman 35

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

For all of the impossible technology, the men made out of shapeshifting clay, the resurrection pits, and the shark repellant, the biggest narrative conceit in any Batman story is the idea that an orphan’s single-minded decision to literally fight crime is somehow noble or laudable. For all of the attempts to “ground” Batman over the past few decades, from Batman: Year One to Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy, none have deigned question that conceit. It’s too central to who Batman is — he arguably wouldn’t work without it. At least, questioning that conceit wouldn’t work with the kind of grim seriousness of those takes seem to take for granted with the character. By contrast, Tom King has always been willing to embrace the absurdity of Batman, the over-the-top everything that makes him fun, but with a self-awareness to admit that it’s also kind of silly. It’s long been the source of solid laughs for King’s run, but issue 35 hinges its most important emotional moments on that silliness. Continue reading

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Relationships Shine in Batman 34

by Spencer Irwin

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Batman may have just gotten engaged, but can you really imagine he and Catwoman going through life as a “normal” married couple, living a mundane domestic life? Of course you can’t, and not just because they have Alfred — it’s because they’re superheroes, wrapped up in grandiose, larger-than-life concerns. While one of those typically superheroic goals — tracking down Holly Robinson — is technically motivating our heroes in Batman 34, Tom King and Joelle Jones make the smart choice to ground the issue in relationships and emotions, making this an issue driven by the spark between characters. For the first time, maybe I can imagine Bruce and Selina as an everyday married couple — albeit one whose “dates” consist of confronting murderous exes in the desert. Continue reading

Trust and Impetuousness in Batgirl 16

By Drew Baumgartner

Batgirl 16

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Guys, I love American Vandal. It’s sendup of Netflix-style documentaries is spot-on, but the thing I love most about it is just how accurately it captures teen life. It renders the goofiness and triviality of high school life in intricate, loving detail, fixating on details that is both hilarious and instantly familiar. But at the center of all the dick jokes and awkwardness is the very real disconnect between the impulsive actions of teens and the logical analysis of adults. What’s more, it examines how the “seriousness” that adults adopt maybe leads them to dismiss important details (like the absence of “ball hairs” on graffiti dicks) that a teen — who actually takes those details seriously — wouldn’t. It makes a rather compelling case for teens as the best detectives for teen-related crimes, as they’re more sensitive to the heightened emotional states and subtle social cues of their fellow teens and more immune to the idea that those details are irrelevant. Hope Larson tilts at something similar in Batgirl 16, suggesting that Babs and Dick might have actually been better detectives when they were younger. Continue reading

Purity of Tone in Batman 33

by Patrick Ehlers

Batman 33

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Catwoman: He’s right, you know. There are rules.

Batman: I know. I wrote them.

Batman 33

Of course Batman wrote the rules; he’s Batman. But the infallible detective isn’t nearly so authoratative as the creators that have used Batman to repeatedly define both genres and mediums. Is there a better demonstration of superhero camp than Batman ‘66? Is there a purer gritty reboot than Batman: Year One? Within the stories, Batman may be writing the rules of non-interference in Khadym, but from the reader’s perspective, he’s demonstrating writer Tom King’s realignment of Batman’s tone. Continue reading

Batman: White Knight 1

by Ryan Desaulniers and Mark Mitchell

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

 He’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now.

Jim Gordon, The Dark Knight

Ryan: Since that line was uttered in lamentation of Gotham’s corruption, I feel as if it’s almost become a canonical outlook on the Caped Crusader. The thing about that line, though, is that it’s purely subjective on Gordon’s part, and particular unto the circumstances of that Batman story in that film. And almost every statement can be used against the point for which it was originally made, right? Even scientists with objective data sets can use the same numbers to support the opposite side of an argument, or the same verse of scripture used to prove opposing points. In Batman: White Knight 1, Sean Murphy takes Jim Gordon’s iconic statement and uses it to sow the seeds of a Gotham wherein the Joker justifies his action with that logic, both as a villain and a hero. Continue reading

Murder by Proxy in Batgirl 15

By Michael DeLaney

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Villains tend to die by some one in ten chance coincidence of their own making – like Green Goblin getting impaled on his own glider. Similarly, storytellers jump through some creative hoops in order for our heroes to feel some respect of responsibility for their enemy’s end. Which is what Hope Larson does in Batgirl 15, as Nightwing vaporizes a woman’s body to dust via proxy. Continue reading

Nightwing: The New Order 1: Discussion

by Mark Mitchell and Ryan Desaulniers 

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

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Mark: Dick Grayson is know for his perfection; the best ass in comics, the most suave personality, the most kickass combatant — generally the coolest guy in the universe. It’s an impressive feat, then, that writer Kyle Higgins and artist Trevor McCarthy (with colors by Dean White) are able to so thoroughly undermine Nightwing’s image of perfection in Nightwing: The New Order 1 without making us completely turn on the character. Continue reading

Unknown history sits at the heart of Batgirl 14

by Drew Baumgartner

Batgirl 14

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, read on at your own risk!

I’ve never been a huge fan of dramatic irony — I can appreciate how giving us more information than the characters have can produce tension (or humor), but that information kind of gets in the way of relating to the characters. Still, I have a heck of a lot more patience for dramatic irony than I do its exact opposite, where characters are privy to information that is deliberately withheld from the audience. Not only does the tension it create feel cheaper (amounting to little more than a narrative chant of “I know something you don’t know”), it makes the characters even harder to relate to, as we’re necessarily left in the dark about what they might be thinking or feeling. All of which kept me from truly enjoying Batgirl 14. Continue reading

Batman 18

batman-18

Today, Michael and Patrick are discussing Batman 18, originally released March 1st, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Patrick: Two weeks ago, Drew made a pretty convincing argument that Tom King’s Batman is attempting to synthesize all canonic and non-canonic versions of Batman. References to both Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on A Serious Earth and Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy seemed to suggest that all of the Batman franchise’s greatest hits were implicitly in play, even during the main-continuity run in DC’s flagship series. With all of those connections freshly in-place, Batman 18 starts to negate some of the commonly held beliefs about the character, hinging almost all of the real-time drama of the piece around Batman’s simple utterance of the word “No.” Continue reading

Batman 16

batman-16

Today, Michael and Patrick are discussing Batman 16, originally released February 1, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Michael: Now THAT’S what I’m talking about! I’ll admit to being a little lukewarm in my reception of the initial arcs of Tom King’s Batman run but I’d say that “I Am Bane” is off to a great start. Maybe it’s because I’m always rooting for a quality Bane story or maybe it’s because I love seeing the Robin club acting like a smarmy group of brothers. Either way it feels good to be excited about what direction Batman is headed in once again. Continue reading