As I mentioned when reviewing the first batch of DC Rebirth trades I went through, I’d lost touch with a lot of these characters since the New 52 hit and mostly rewrote the old continuity I loved. That’s not exactly the case with the Batbooks. I’ve read almost all of Scott Snyder’s volumes of the previous Batman series and a few other entries here and there like Batgirl and We Are Robin. Still, I thought it was interesting diving into these new takes on familiar titles and characters. Continue reading Batman Rebirth Trade Post: Batman, Detective Comics & All-Star
Batman: The Man Who Laughs (DC)
Written by Ed Brubaker, drawn by Doug Mahnke & Patrick Zircher
Collects Batman: The Man Who Laughs, Detective Comics #784-786
I’ve gone a little crazy requesting trades from my local library network. It’s been a lot of fun searching for all kinds of books I may have missed over the years or haven’t read in a while. Batman: The Man Who Laughs actually combines both of these because I somehow missed Ed Brubaker’s take on the Joker in the 2005 Man Who Laughs one-shot, but did read the three issue run on Detective Comics from 2003 also included in this collection.
I remember Man Who Laughs being a pretty big deal when I started working at Wizard in 2005. The prestige format book had come out before I got there and Brubaker’s star was definitely on the rise. A few of the guys on staff were huge fans of Gotham Central, which Bru co-wrote with Greg Rucka and so there was a lot of buzz about his then-new Captain America run and his other projects including the excellent Sleeper. Because of this, Man Who Laughs was a tough book to get your hands on in the Wizard library as people were constantly asking about it. Plus, one book like this can be very difficult to find in a huge, fairly unorganized library like that.
Basically, MWL is a story about the first meeting between Batman and the Joker. It acts as a nice sister story to Batman: Year One because, up to this point, the Dark Knight has only really faced off against mobsters, criminals and street thugs, but the appearance of the Joker takes things to a whole new psychotic level. In true Joker fashion, he comes on the scene like a bomb, presents rules for a game that he has no intention of following and eventually finds out exactly what kind of adversary he has in the form of Batman. Like I said when I wrote about the Lex Luthor-centric run of Action Comics recently, this is one of those stories that helps define a hero by the villains he attracts. Plus, as I’ve said in many a Books Of Oa post, Doug Mahnke is just the best and should draw everything ever.His Joker is waaaay creepy.
After that you’ve got a three issue arc from Detective Comics that teamed a pair of Gotham’s protectors up to solve a series of murders with roots back in the post-WWII era. Green Lantern Alan Scott tried to find a serial killer back in the day who carved “Made of Wood” into his victims. When a new killer with the same MO pops up in modern times, he joins forces with Batman to figure out what’s going on. This is a pretty straightforward whodunnit with a retired Jim Gordon working the case from a different angle. This is the kind of crime solving tale Bru became known for in Gotham Central, but with the added flare of seeing a par of superheroes working the case that makes stories like this set in a shared superhero universe fun.
I got pretty nostalgic reading these issues of Detective Comics because they came out when I was in college. I would come home for a break and my mom or dad would have my pull list waiting for me. I’d spend a good deal of time organizing everything and then putting them in a desired reading order before diving in. These comics reading experiences were much further and farther between than I was used to, but they were a lot more intense because it was such an immersive, deep-dive experience. When we get into a house one of the many things I’m looking forward to is getting my comic collection all in one place so I can go back, re-read books like this and see what’s worth keeping.
After reading the first three volumes of Scott Snyder’s Batman, I’m firmly and solidly hooked. I can’t wait to see where that story goes as it makes its way to trade over time and even more slowly finds its way into my collection. But, while waiting, I figured it would make sense to go back and read the writer’s first attempt at playing in Gotham. Snyder wrote the main feature and back-ups of Detective Comics leading up to New 52. This story features Dick Grayson as Batman, but takes place after Bruce came back in The Return Of Bruce Wayne.
There’s a lot going on in this book which finds art chores split between Jock and Francavilla. You’ve got Dick investigating a long-running black market auction for evil objects held in places where terrible things happened as well as the ongoing mystery of exactly who or what Commissioner Gordon’s son James is. All of that is mixed with what’s considered more “comic booky” elements like massive sea animals and a car-filled deathtrap. The two artists have wildly different styles, but they both fit the story so well from Jock’s chaotic lines to Francavilla’s more solid, thick-lined take. Sometimes when artists change in a book like this it can be super distracting, but in each case, they seem perfectly suited for the twists and turns Snyder threw at them and us.
I absolutely loved going on this journey. For me, it’s got a lot of connections to Year One, which I read for the first time in years recently. The thing that struck me about Year One when I gave it a re-read was how much of a Jim Gordon story it is. He’s really the main character and I’d say that’s the case with the majority of these issues as well. I don’t know how he did it or if I’m just pre-disposed to get on Gordon’s side, but I was completely taken and absorbed with the story revolving around his son. I gasped while reading a few times and got uncomfortable at others. It took me several weeks to read this book the first time for various reasons, but I’m hoping the next time I crack it open, I’ll be able to take it in in a much shorter period of time because it really feels like a complete epic that utilizes the history of Batman while also blazing new trials in a similar way that Geoff Johns did with books like JSA, Flash and Green Lantern.
The Joker: The Clown Prince Of Crime (DC)
Written by Denis O’Neil, Elliot S! Maggin & Martin Pasko, drawn by Irv Novick, Dick Giordano, Jose Louis Garcia-Lopez, Ernie Chen, Vince Colletta, Tex Blaisdell & Frank McLaughlin
Collects Joker #1-9
I’d love to say that I chose to read this collection of the Joker’s solo comic from the 70s for deep thematic reasons like the fact that it’s another Bat-book that Bruce Wayne has nothing to do with, but in reality, I just wanted to give it a read. I appreciate that DC’s still reprinting these older tales even though they’re pretty much negated everything about them thanks to the New 52.
These issues debuted between 1975 and 1976 and feature the Clown Prince of Crime going on a variety of adventures that either feature his fellow Rogues Gallery members like Two-Face or Scarecrow or pit him against heroes like Creeper or Green Arrow. There are some attempts to connect these stories like the continued appearance of henchmen Tooth and Southpaw as well as repeated appearances by Benny and Marvin, a pair of former Arkham Guards who repeatedly run into Joker. But, for the most part, this is a monster/her/team-up/crime of the issue type of comic thanks to the mix of writers and artists on board each issue.
Tone-wise, this is an interesting book. When it was coming out you had the more realistic take on the Caped Crusader going on thanks to Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams and company. This book reflects some of that, especially in the art style,as we see Joker murdering a few people here and there, but also carries a comedic tone that presents itself in many ways. Heck, Joker gets out of Arkham with a giant balloon in the first issue and goes on to build a secret base under his cell in the asylum so he can commit crimes more easily. There’s a whole issue where Lex Luthor and Joker accidentally switch personalities and an incredibly complicated way of doing a modern-day Sherlock Holmes story that feels like the kind of longform joke Andy Kaufman would try to pull off, so there’s still plenty of humor.
I do have to say one thing that got under my skin while reading this book was the fact that they referred to Joker’s hideout as the Ha-Hacienda, which is a funny idea, but it should be the Ha-Ha-Hacienda, right? Aside from that, I had a lot of fun reading through this book. I don’t always go in for comics from this era because they’re not super well regarded or original, but this hit a lot of my buttons, including the huge Creeper one hiding in the depths of my comic-loving brain.
Catwoman’s one of those characters I’ve had an on again, off again relationship with as a comic book reader. When I got into Batman books, it was during Knightfall and then Knightsend, which she played a part in. Not long after that, someone offered me a subscription to a comi, I went with Catwoman because it seemed fun and Jim Balent’s art looks pretty neat (and not just for the T&A factor, though I’m sure that didn’t go unnoticed at the time). I’d pick up issues here and there, but never really got into either the Ed Brubaker or Will Pfeifer stuff. I did love the character in the animated series and The Dark Knight Rises.
I’m not nearly as tapped in as I used to be, but I think there was some controversy about this book when it launched because Guillem March draws Catwoman very sexy and because she has sex with Batman at the end of the first issue and into the second. As I said when I read the first issue a few months back, that doesn’t bother me. I talked to a few friends and the point one of them made was that it might be a bad choice having one of the marquee characters in your universe raw dogging it with a criminal the first month of production. I get that, but, again, it didn’t bother me.
I’ve taken a new kind of approach to comics lately. I don’t so much care about one big cohesive universe or continuity anymore. The way I look at Big Two comics now is that a writer comes in, has access to all the past stories that have been written about said character (basically, the building blocks) and they construct their story with whichever blocks they choose while adding their own. I liked the ones Winick decided to play with. This Catwoman is a thief who steals out of greed, but still has a good heart, a code of ethics and a few friends she’s very attached to.
In the process of doing her thing, Selina Kyle finds herself with one less friend and in the presence of a man who wronged her greatly in the past. Seeing how she reacts to these situations gives us a chance to see how she really is and it’s not always as pretty as March’s art might make it seem. I got a very film noire/detective vibe from this story. Catwoman’s not a good character, but she does some good things and you wind up on her side even if you don’t think you’d do the same things in her situation (or be in that situation in the first place).
I’ve been a fan of Winick’s on books like The Outsiders, Green Lantern and Green Arrow, so I wasn’t surprised I’d like this book. I think there’s one more volume before he bounces right? I’ll give that one a read if I can get my hands on it.
I was less interested in Tony Daniel’s take on Batman in Detective Comics. This doesn’t have anything to do with my thoughts on Daniel — I like him quite a bit — the problem is that I think I’ve reached my fill of basic Batman stories. I have no idea where I read this, but I remember someone writing that they think some comic readers have a certain amount of a particular character’s story they can read and then they’re all filled up, the idea being that most writers can only do so much with a particular character (either because of their own level of ability or what the editor wants to see). While I can still read Catwoman stories, I’m just not sure how interesting I find another story where Batman has to track down a group of unknown criminals and deal with them in time to save an innocent (in this case Jim Gordon).
Don’t get me wrong, though, Daniel did some really cool things in this book. I actually like how he came up with a small army of new villains, either as part of Dollmaker’s crew or Penguin’s new pals. I also thought making Penguin’s club, The Iceberg Lounge into the floating Iceberg Casino is a great idea. I also appreciate the kind of old school Batman nature of the story which not only involves the aforementioned bad guys in outlandish costumes, but also a scene where Batman’s strung up like a puppet and has to fight four dudes dressed as Joker in the same states. That’s just a fun, weird idea that works when you’re dealing with guys in bat suits and, well, someone as bugnutty as Joker.
The Joker stuff is actually part of the only real, concrete thing about the book I didn’t like: it’s super dark. The Dollmaker’s people are all literally sewn together from other people, Joker’s face gets chopped off (and later shows up in Suicide Squad, which made that story make a lot more sense to me) and a handful of other nasty things happen. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think these elements are inappropriate by any means, but to return to my above metaphor, they’re not the kind of blocks I’m as interested in reading as I might have once been. I’ve also read plenty of Batbooks along those lines in my years of fandom, so I might just be plain full up.
In a somewhat shocking revelation, I actually liked all three of the random comics I grabbed out of The Box for this week’s post. It helped that two of them were comics I purchased at a convention in the last few years, but hadn’t gotten around to reading, but it’s still nice to know that randomness can be a good thing.
First up, I checked out 1993’s Detective Comics #662 written by Chuck Dixon and drawn by Graham Nolan. This issues happens to be the eight installment in the Knightfall storyline that would eventually see Batman with his back shattered. I’ve said before on this blog that Superman’s death is what got me hooked on comics, but once I was in, the breaking of Batman helped keep me there and broadened my reading habits. I don’t exactly remember where I came in on this story, but it was after this issue because I didn’t already have it. It got me thinking of how shocking the end of this story must have been to people reading the event as it happened. Sure, Batman had been in some tough spots before, but he always made it out okay, that would happen again this time, right?
Nope. Anyway, this particular issue finds an exhausted Batman fighting Firefly at the zoo while Robin stops one of Riddler’s plots. This particular issue doesn’t do a great job of explaining what all is happening though, that Bane released all these criminals and has set them loose on Gotham with Batman trying to bring them all back in. You get the gist here and there and at the end, but if this was a Valiant or Crossgen crossover I wasn’t familiar with, I’d have been lost. Reading this issue made me want to get those new Knightfall paperbacks that came out recently as I realized I’ve never read the whole story from beginning to end as I just jumped in whenever I started reading.
Up next I pulled out another DC Comics, this one Suicide Squad #35 from 1989 by the creative team of John Ostrander and Luke McDonnell. This was interesting time as I’d just finished reading the first arc of the series in trade paperback form a few weeks prior. As I mentioned in that post, I’d read a number of the issues when my pal Ben lent them to me, but can’t really remember how far I got. I’m not sure if I got up to this issue, but the adventure did seem a little familiar, so maybe I did.
Anyway, this one finds the Squad — a group of criminals who go on crazy missions to help alleviate their prison sentences — stranded on Darkseid’s planet Apokolips fighting the Female Furies and doing a much better job than they probably should have been able to do if you ask me.
The issue feels like the middle of a three parter as it’s pretty much one huge fight scene, but there’s still enough explained that I didn’t feel lost. Lashina had been abandoned on Earth in an earlier issue and basically joined the Squad, but still wanted her revenge for being left behind. The issue ended on a cliffhanger that made me wish even more that this whole series was collected in trade. I guess I’ll just have to keep collecting issues like this one and read them all together down the line.
Lastly, I pulled out another issue of Magnus Robot Fighter, this one 1993’s #21 by John Ostrander and John Bock. Huh, just realized that I pulled out two Ostrander comics back to back. After reading Magnus #25 last week, I wasn’t super excited about reading this comic, but I went through with it and it was alright. Much like last time, I still don’t really know why Magnus fights robots, but the issues does have a dream sequence that recaps a lot of Magnus’ recent adventures (and contains lots of robot fighting).
There’s some presumably big reveals to people who had been reading the series for 2o issues before this one. For them, they might have been like “Holy crap!!!!” but I was like “Oh, okay.” That’s just how these things work. You’re not going to surprise a newbie with a revelation in the 21st issue, but you can do your best to set it up for them so they at least understand what’s being revealed and why it’s important. Ostrander did that here and that’s all I can really ask for.
Oh, also, Bock’s art is still awesome in this issue.