Batman Trade Post: Gates Of Gotham & The City Of Owls

Batman The Gates Of Gotham Batman:  Gates Of Gotham (DC)
Written by Scott Snyder, Kyle Higgins & Ryan Parrott, drawn by Trevor McCarthy, Graham Nolan, Dustin Nguyen & Derec Donovan
Collects Batman: Gates Of Gotham #1-5, Detective Comics Annual #12 & Batman Annual #28

One my favorite parts of going to any comic convention is digging through $5 trade boxes. I scored a number of Exiles Ultimate Collection volumes at this year’s NYCC, but was also incredibly excited to get my hands on a copy of Batman: Gates Of Gotham. I’d read a few of these issues here and there, but lost track of it. At the time, I didn’t know about Scott Snyder, but have since become a huge fan of his after reading Severed, American Vampire Volumes One and Two and the first book of his New 52 Batman stuff. He plotted this miniseries along with New 52 Nightwing writer Kyle Higgins who also teamed up with Ryan Parrott for dialog. Between that general appreciation and the fact that I also recently came into a copy of Batman Volume 2: City Of Owls, it seemed like a good time to go on a mini-Batman reading spree.

The miniseries bounces back and forth between the early days of Gotham as we know it, when the city was being built up by a pair of architect brothers known as the Gates of Gotham. They worked for the Waynes, Cobblepots, Elliots and Kanes, the four richest families in town at the time who funded many of the biggest construction efforts in the late 1800s. Meanwhile, in the present, Batman (Dick Grayson) is trying to figure out who is blowing up some of those older structures and what the two have to do with one another. Luckily for him, he’s got Robin (Damien Wayne), Red Robin (Tim Drake) and Black Bat (Cassandra Cain) to help him out.

Much like American Vampire, I dug how Snyder, Higgins and company were able to make this history lesson not only interesting, but intriguing. That story itself could have supported its own miniseries, but you’ve also got all the action in the present and the mystery of how the two are connected. Plus, there’s a great little twist at the end that was clever and fun.  This is a great, fun miniseries that I really enjoyed and will happily add to my collection, but I really do wish that they would have been able to stick with Trevor McCarthy for the whole series. I really dug his angular, animation-ish style and while the other guys aren’t bad, they do have different styles that can bring you out of the story because it’s so obvious that you’re dealing with a different person behind the pencil.

There was one interesting aspect of this book that actually had nothing to do with the writing, but more of the setting. This is, I believe, one of the last pre-New 52 Batman stories out there. I’ve been reading a TON of New 52 books lately and have a lot of mixed feelings, so it was fun to go back to “my” DCU and enjoy a newer story with characters I actually know and understand deeply. Plus, the only big continuity thing you need to know is that this story comes after Bruce returned from his post-Final Crisis journey through history in The Return Of Bruce Wayne and that he’s launched Batman Incorporated. That’s still kind of a lot to remember as time goes on (once again, a recap page would have been nice), but all-in-all, I think I’ll be able to handle it, especially after I get all of Grant Morrison’s run on my shelf.

batman volume 2 city of owls Batman Volume 2: The City Of Owls (DC)
Written by Scott Snyder with James Tynion IV, drawn by Greg Capullo with Jonathan Glapion, Rafael Albuquerque, Jason Fabok, Becky Cloonan, Andy Clarke & Sandu Florea
Collects Batman (New 52) #8-12, Annual #1

After all the craziness of the first volume, Snyder didn’t give Batman much of a breather. Battered and nearly broken, Bruce is in rough shape when all of the previously frozen Talons decide to kill him and several other prominent members of Gotham society all on the same night. Of course, they came at Bruce a lot harder than everyone else. Since he was pretty banged up already, Bats donned a pretty killer suit of armor to take them on. I love when characters put on armor, you guys. Love it.

From there, Batman tracks down the Court of Owls only to find a much more prominent villain who thinks he has direct ties to the Wayne family that rounds out Bruce and his parents’ history in this new universe even more. This collection also contains the introduction of a new ally for Batman’s called Harper Row and a really great story that explains this new version of Mr. Freeze that plays off some of the known aspects of the character and goes in a few different directions. Also, for what it’s worth, this book does have a text opener letting readers know what happened in the previous volume. Kudos for that , DC!

I’ve listened to two different Fat Man On Batman podcasts with host Kevin Smith interviewing Snyder and I’ve got to say, this guy thinks about story on levels that I don’t hear about much and I talk to a fair amount of writers for my day job. He’s not just in Batman’s head, but he’s in every character’s head going back a few generations and, from what I hear of the current/upcoming stuff, into the future. I’ve become a huge fan of his writing and hope to score a few more of his books from my Amazon Wish List in the near future. Hinthinthint.

New 52 Trade Post: Wonder Woman Blood & Deathstroke Legacy

Wonder Woman Volume 1: Blood (DC)
Written by Brian Azzarello, drawn by Cliff Chiang with Tony Akins
Collects Wonder Woman #1-8

I’ve been a fan of Wonder Woman on and off over the years. She was the first comic book character where I realized how important the creators writing and drawing the book were to my personal like or dislike of the story. I started reading when Artemis took over and then moved into the John Byrne stuff which I have all of, but didn’t particularly enjoy. From there I went in and out reading some of the Greg Rucka stuff, but not really getting into it and then really enjoying Gail Simone’s run and even digging the first trade of JMS’s run. Heck, I’ve even read three of the four trades that collect the old school stories where she has no powers and is just super groovy. But there also a lot of stuff in there that I haven’t read or didn’t like, so she can be kind of a crap shoot.

When I heard that Brian Azzarello was writing, I was hopefully optimistic, but not super-jazzed. See, I love his Vertigo work (Loveless to some extent, but definitely 100 Bullets), but the DC superhero stuff he’s done has been hit or miss, though I haven’t read his Superman or Batman stuff since they first came out. I was super excited to hear that Cliff Chiang was drawing on the book and knew that they worked really well together on the Doctor 13 stuff. With all that, plus a pretty favorable review on Preferred Podcast Matt and Brett Love Comics, it was pretty high on my list of New 52 comics to check out.

And, I’d definitely add this to the pile of WW comics I dig. It wasn’t shockingly new or different from the other stories I’ve read, but I thought Azz did a good job of addressing some of the familiar elements in different ways. For instance, there’s a big drama surrounding Diana’s lineage which turns out to not be what she thought it was. I’ve seen that bit before, but it was handled really well here. I’ve also seen Diana leaving the Amazons and operating on her own, but the reasons and resulting strange family dynamic make it interesting.

That last bit, the odd family dynamic created as the first arc carries on, is what I liked the best. The whole selfless, awesome warrior woman thing is cool and I’ve seen done a lot both well and poorly, but setting that idea in what’s essentially a dysfunctional family that doesn’t feel tacked on is impressive. On a related note, I also liked how Chiang and fellow artist Tony Akins designed some of the familiar Roman/Greek (forget which ones) gods in fun and interesting ways. Hermes looks rad, so do Nepture and Hades because they actually look different than the ways you usually see them in Wonder Woman comics. I just scoped it out and it looks like Azz and Chiang have stayed on the book for a while, so I’m in for at least one more of these trades!

Deathstroke Volume 1: Legacy (DC)
Written by Kyle Higgins, drawn by Joe Bennett with Eduardo Pansica
Collects Deathstroke #1-8

A few months back when I read through about half of the New 52 number one issues, Deathstroke was one of the ones that stuck out to me as being pretty interesting. I didn’t think it was the kind of thing that needed a whole new continuity relaunch to make sense, but it was a comic I enjoyed and wanted to see more of, hence my acquisition of the first trade.

There are three elements to this story that I like to different extents. You’ve got the general idea that people art starting to think Deathstroke has gone soft, so he takes all these ridiculously insane missions to show how badass he is. That’s rad. Then you’ve got this idea that someone he’s killed parents keep paying people to wear a pink and green mask/costume, though each costume is different. Why? Because those were the victim’s favorite colors. Really? That just seemed silly and took me out of the story because of how silly they always looked. Lastly and this gets into SPOILER TERRITORY, but a big part of the story revolves around Slade discovering that his assassin son is not actually dead, but in fact working with the parents of the above-mentioned victim. At first I was bummed that it was so quickly getting mired in Deathstroke’s crazy family stuff that became such a big part of the Titans comics for so long, tiresomely so. But then I realized that the story contained in this collection is actually very well self contained and didn’t need any outside explanations for new readers, which was the whole point of the New 52 relaunch, so I’m good on that.

Altogether, I thought this was a good, fun story worth checking out if you’re down for some melodramatic violence and giant sword action. I also dug Joe Bennett’s art which has kind of a Jim Calafiore feel to it, but a little looser. He handled everything from Clayface monsters to crazy armor well. I don’t believe this creative team stuck around after #8, so I’m not sure how things went after this. Anyone read those issues?

Picking Up The 52: Huntress, Batwing, Hawk & Dove & Deathstroke #1s

I recently came into a stack of DC’s New 52 #1 issues. I didn’t think I’d be reading any of these books until word of the best ones popped and the trades came out, but here we are. I figured it would be fun to read them in the order they came to me in and just dove in. Here’s my thoughts.

Huntress #1 (of 6)
Written by Paul Levitz, drawn by Marcus To

This was an interesting book to start off with. On my first read through it was enjoyable enough. You’ve got Huntress in pretty much the same outfit she had in the previous universe and basically the same MO, traveling abroad and stumbling upon a human trafficking ring. She uses her vigilante crime fighting skills to crush skulls and put a stop to the problems, though she doesn’t quite get to the big boss man yet. But, then, on the second flip through I realized that there wasn’t really much in the way of new-ness in this comic. Pretty much every scene in this book has shown up in movies or other comics and winds up not being all that interesting upon further inspection. I do, however, think that Marcus To has some pretty solid chops. He draws ladies as well as action pretty well. He even does some good face work when he’s given the chance to do so. I hate starting these things off negatively, but it does seem like this would be an okay entryway for someone who’s used to action/vigilante movies but not into comics. You could probably give this comic to the Dirty Harry/Death Wish fan in your life and they’d probably get into it and maybe come back for more.

Batwing #1
Written by Judd Winick, drawn by Ben Oliver

Batwing was actually one of my favorite books from this stack. It introduces us to the African Batman, more specifically, the man who Batman visited and tasked with instilling fear in the hearts of men. I should note that this is the only one of the New 52 books I read that Batman actually appears in, so I’m not sure what the deal is moving over from the Grant Morrison stuff pre-New 52, but I’ve heard it’s actually pretty similar. I’m not all the way caught up on that stuff either, but I know the point of Batman, Inc. was to set different Batmen up around the world where they’re needed. And, boy, does this area need a Bat. I’m no expert, but Winick seems to have a good handle on the stakes in this part of the world and places our new armored hero in them to worrying degrees. There’s even one point where he notes that Batmen won’t scare such hardened people. It’s a really interesting point that I hadn’t thought of, which is something I dig when reading comics. Also, Ben Oliver has a big bold style that looks like it’s almost painted (maybe it is?) that I liked though he could have done more with the backgrounds, which is becoming my biggest pet peeve in comics lately. The issue ended with a cliffhanger that made me want to move on to the next issue. I will definitely have my eyes peeled for the Batwing trade when it comes out.

Hawk & Dove #1
Written by Sterling Gates, drawn by Rob Liefeld

Another comic book pet peeve I’ve got is when a book opens with tons of text, especially if it’s a news broadcast which is how Hawk & Dove kicks off. I know it means I’m lazy, but that’s how I roll. Other than that, this is an alright book. The concept of Hawk and Dove is one that I just don’t dig. One person likes to fight and the other doesn’t, but they’re both superheroes? It just doens’t grab me because it feels very limited. This book also seems very connected to the old DCU considering this is the same pairing that came back to life in Brightest Day and that Dove is with Deadman which I’m guessing is also a carryover. Heck, the last page reveal shows that a guy who looks like Kestrel is going to be a bad guy. Only a very specific audience–the people who would have bought a Hawk & Dove book anyway–would really care about this last page reveal. But, maybe it gets better or maybe those H&D fans dig this book.

Deathstrike #1
Written by Kyle Higgins, drawn by Joe Bennett

Thankfully, Deathstroke is a concept I can definitely get behind and have been taken with since I first encountered him way back when. He’s a one-eyed assassin who uses all of his brain to figure out how to kill you before you can even throw a punch. That, I like. This issue finds him working with a team of younger support people to steal something from an in-flight airplane and kill a guy. The job goes a little wonky and he winds up throwing down with some monsters and getting the chance to swing that gigantic sword of his. At the end, he shows exactly what he’s about and winds up breaking ties with the people he had been working for. Like Batwing, there’s enough here to get me to come back for the trade. I also dig Bennett’s art. I know I’ve read his comics before, but this looks different than I remember. He’s got a little Jim Calafiore going on. He’s a bit stylized which really fits this cross-genre book that stars a man in armor. I dig it.