In this post I’m focusing on just the Batman-specific titles, and not the extended “Bat-family”, which will follow in a day or two. So, here are my thoughts on issues #4-6 of Batman, Batman & Robin and The Dark Knight, as well as issues #5-7 of Detective Comics. All of these titles are great, but three of them in particular stand out above pretty much all DC comics I’ve read.
#4 – Shocking discoveries lead Batman deeper into the mystery of the Court of Owls and its secret and bloody ties to both Gotham City and the Wayne family. But an even deadlier threat awaits Batman: a trap set hundreds of years ago, far beneath his city. The war for Gotham’s soul begins here!
#5 – Deep beneath Gotham City lies the Court of Owls’ deadliest trap – and Batman has fallen right into it! Can he escape, or will he perish in a maze of nightmare? Enter the labyrinth, Batman – if you dare!
#6 – Trapped far beneath Gotham City and hunted by the Talon – the Court of Owls’ unstoppable killer – Batman lies bleeding and broken. With no way out and no one to help, is this the end for The Dark Knight?
Batman survives the Court of the Owls’ booby-trapped hideaway (see the end of issue three), and steps up his investigation into the Court. We get a flashback to Bruce’s childhood, and his first exposure to the Court, believing at the time that they were behind his parents’ murders.
His investigation is somewhat a success, as he does end up in an Owl Court lair, only it is as a captive, rather than detective. Trapped in a labyrinth, drugged, and being driven mad by the endless loop he seems to be caught in, the fifth issue was excellent. Snyder’s writing really evokes Bruce’s frustration with the fact that he knows what’s going on, only he is near-powerless to do anything about it. The artistic team involved with this series is also superb, and in this issue they do a fantastic job of portraying Batman’s mind-set and delusions. The messing about with the page-orientation was an interesting and effective visual device, too. (Unless it was a printing error, in which case it was just a fortuitous one…)
In the last of these three issues, Batman finally battles the Talon (Owl Court assassin) that has been plaguing his moves this series. It’s brutal, bloody, and made all the weirder because Bruce is still feeling the effects of being drugged and the resultant delirium.
The series enjoys great writing and artwork throughout. Batman is a superb title, and it really makes me want to read everything else Snyder’s worked on – especially his other Batman stuff (Gates of Gotham, Black Mirror) and also American Vampire (of which I already have the first volume, and hope to review that in about a week). This is easily one of my favourites of the New 52. If you have any interest in the Batman franchise, you need to be reading this.
BATMAN & ROBIN:
#4 – Batman and Robin are at the mercy of NoBody as he forces them to embrace a new way to battle crime and injustice. But Batman has other ideas! Plus: Don't miss the origin of NoBody!
#5 – There’s a devil on Robin’s shoulder – and his name is Nobody! Batman and Robin’s relationship gets pushed to the breaking point as Nobody insinuates himself into Damian’s life and tries to make him see that Bruce’s plan to battle crime is hopeless – and only by teaming up and tapping into Damian’s killer instinct can they ever hope to rid Gotham City of its evil roots.
#6 – As the bond between Batman and Robin deteriorates, Robin is forced by NoBody to make a life and death decision – and Batman’s hunt through Gotham City to find them reaches a soul-searing moment that will push Batman to the edge!
This is one of the most thoughtful and nuanced of the New 52 Batman titles. For example, it brings up a common theme in the Batman titles: that of Bruce’s unwillingness to kill the monsters and psychopaths he confronts, and the fact that this often allows them the opportunity (or, at least, time) to break out of Arkham Asylum or jail and commit more crimes, murders and mayhem. This, in part, is what led Jason Todd (now Red Hood) to his brand of violent vigilantism and hatred of Batman – this is explained in two graphic novels, The Lost Days and Under the Hood, which I have already read and will review later this and next week. NoBody, the self-proclaimed ‘monster hunter’ asks Batman:
“Why are ANY of them still alive – where’s your loyalty to the victims?”
In the fifth issue, Robin (Bruce’s son, Damian) steps out of bounds, teaming up with NoBody against Batman, going on a mission to prove to his new mentor that he is dedicated to a more brutal, final brand of crime fighting. After discovering Robin’s defection, Batman reminisces about how he became acquainted with the Ducards, Henri (who trained him) and Morgan (his son and, now, NoBody). I always like learning more about Batman’s back-story, how he came to become the Dark Knight and develop his skills (I’m a sucker for origin stories).
The sixth issue ups the ante, and is superb. Damian is taken further into NoBody’s confidence, learning more of his methods and skills, but also becoming slightly repulsed by NoBody’s brutal and remorseless tactics. Bruce recalls the events that ended his apprenticeship with the Ducards, and what it made him do. The issue ends with a tense and emotional cliff-hanger.
This is an awesome and interesting series. It’s particularly noteworthy for its portrayal of Bruce and Damian’s dynamic and relationship – in battle and not. Also, I like the role Alfred has in the series – he is a mentor and father-figure to both Damian and Bruce, and does his best to reconcile the two of them and also keep them focused on what really matters. The artwork is great, too: It’s not overly stylised or anything like that, but some of the visual tricks and devices the artistic team uses are very well done and innovative.
Along with Batman, this is probably one of the best series in the New 52, delving brilliantly into the difficult relationship between this unique father-son relationship. Fantastic and very highly recommended.
BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT:
#4 – Batman must race against time to save a friend’s life. But his mission may prove impossible as he reels under the weight of three hundred chemically enhanced super-criminals who stand against him. All clues point to one psychotic criminal, and all roads to a solution that will lead to one secret location... but will Batman arrive too late to stop the rage let loose on his city?
#5 – When a madman attacks Batman with a new and powerful fear toxin, The Dark Knight visits the coldest and most distant part of his soul. And as his deepest fears resurface, he must rely on old friends to help quell the terrible effects, and to remind him of his true mission as a hero. But what Batman discovers hidden in a moment of courage may change his life forever... for a dark figure from his past has returned – the one adversary The Dark Knight truly fears.
#6 – Batman’s darkest fears resurface in this stunning conclusion to the opening epic as the Dark Knight confronts the mastermind behind the toxin being injected into Gotham City’s criminals. But the conspiracy behind the toxin runs deeper than he could possibly have imagined. Time is running out – and the entire structure of Gotham City’s society is at risk, unless Batman can find a path to overcome the man who once broke his back: Bane!
Not a whole lot happens in the fourth issue of this series. Bruce is continuing his internal monologue about the (self-)destructive side of his Batman gig. Then he’s pulled from the Bat-plane (which I’m sure used to be called the Batwing before the new character with the same name appeared), and dumped on an island. It’s not bad, but nor is it really great. This felt like a bridge-issue.
In the fifth issue, Batman is at the mercy of Scarecrow’s new serum/toxin, and feels similar effects to those that sent a number of Arkham inmates crazier and more psychotic. As a result, he takes on Superman! (What a daft idea!) It doesn’t end well for Batman.
Recovering from his smack-down with Superman, Batman quickly finds himself in combat with Bane. Batman has got much closer to the heart of the mystery that is the basis of this series. It’s interesting how the writers have managed to lead us on a merry chase around a few classic Batman villains, making us believe they were the evil mastermind, only to switch things up on us. I quite liked the red-herring aspect of the story. The sixth issue is pretty brutal, and one that ends on a bit of a cliff-hanger.
The series boasts some really gorgeous, dark and atmospheric artwork. However, I would say that the writing is only decent, rather than great, with a story that feels a little thin compared to the other Batman titles. Will this be the first Batman title I drop...? Perhaps, but I’ll at least read until the end of this story arc (which is maybe one or two more issues).
#5 – There’s been a seriers of assassinations in the criminal underworld – and The Penguin is among Batman’s first suspects! But when seemingly ordinary women become part of the killings, Batman discovers a common denominator that leads him on the trail of a vicious killer who is spiraling down a path of destruction. Bruce Wayne’s girlfriend, investigative reporter Charlotte Rivers, ends up on the killer’s hit list. And with her missing, can Batman uncover the layers of lies and deception within the underworld in time to save her?
#6 – Batman invades The Penguin’s floating casino as Bruce Wayne to uncover a brutal string of slayings – but he finds the chips stacked against him! With the Iceberg’s maiden voyage out of Gotham Harbor under way, the evening’s festivities threaten to throw Batman off the killer’s trail. And lurking among the rich and famous is a very ambitious outsider who’d like nothing more than to see Bruce Wayne lose everything, including his life. Murder, lies and betrayal are the name of this high-stakes game!
#7 – Batman uncovers the truth behind a string of underworld killings involving a guest at the Penguin’s Iceberg Casino, but time is running out! Is unimaginable terror about to strike on the floating gambling den? And what will Bruce Wayne do now that he’s discovered some of Charlotte’s most well kept – and darkest – secrets? It’s death and destruction in the highest of high stakes games at the Iceberg Casino!
The fifth issue kicked things off well. Batman’s tracking a crew of Joker-wannabes, ending up at a protest calling for justice against Batman and for the Joker (who everyone thinks is dead – not surprising, given the final page of issue one). But his potential-girlfriend, Charlotte, is crashing the opening of the new Iceberg Casino, which is run by the Penguin. There’s a back-up story about Eli Strange, son of Hugo, included in the issue. I’m not entirely sure who Hugo Strange is, but the name does ring a bell (maybe from Arkham City?). Eli gets himself into a bind over illegal gambling and Catwoman’s loot. It was pretty cool, and I liked the grittier artwork.
While Batman is conducting his own case, Charlotte’s sister, Chase, is planning something at the Iceberg Casino, and doesn’t appreciate Charlotte’s meddling. Things build to a potentially fatal cliff-hanger as Batman’s investigation leads him to the Iceberg. We’re also introduced to a face-changing criminal who’s helping Chase.
In the seventh issue, the Penguin’s conspiracy comes to a head, and Batman’s there to clean up the mess. I thought this issue was very good. It was straight-forward, action-packed and also had a fair amount of investigative work. The inclusion of Chase and her part in the conspiracy is pretty well handled. These three issues together felt like a lot of story, and were very satisfying.
The series is put together with some great, dynamic artwork, and is another strong Batman title. The whole creative team is very good, and I have high hopes that Detective Comics will continue to impress, entertain, and get better. It’s darker than many of the other New 52, and is better than The Dark Knight. If you had to choose between the two, I would recommend this one.
Of these titles, Batman, Batman & Robin and Detective Comics are absolutely keepers, and among the best of the New 52. I’ve really come to love the Batman franchise. Darkly rendered and written, with great action and mystery, these are great stories.
Next up will be the extended Bat-Family catch-up (Batgirl, Batwoman, Catwoman, Nightwing and Red Hood & the Outlaws), which are also very strong.