This is part 2 of my DC New 52 Review. Part is here. Hopefully I finish this series before the reviews become too out of date.
I decided to read every book of the New 52 to widen my horizons regarding my comic book reading, and one of the greatest advantages has been exposure to Scott Snyder’s work. I have a tendency not to remember writers and artists of comics I read, except for the very famous ones, so I wasn’t aware that I had read his work before during the Black Mirror arc in Detective Comics pre-New 52. But he’s quickly become one of my favorite writers to date, with his work on Batman quickly bringing me to appreciate his work on other books like Swamp Thing and the phenomenal American Vampire. His writing on Batman is up there with those other books. He’s introduced a whole new mythos and underbelly to Gotham, adding a new dimension to Batman’s fight to keep his city sane. And the artwork by Greg Capullo is simply fantastic, an awesome backup to Snyder’s plots. Capullo is another creative whom I wouldn’t have encountered if not for the New 52, his work previously been mostly Image-related. The excellent creative team easily makes Batman my favorite of the DC New 52 so far (it helps that I’m quite the Batman fan.)
Detective isn’t the best, but that’s okay. The art is above average, I kinda like it, though it smells a bit like the usual gritty comic-book art I’ve grown up with. The story lines so far have involved the Dollmaker and the Penguin, and they involve a lot of Batman knocking around thugs to get information. The stories are always narrated in Batman’s third person voice which gives it a weird edge. Not sure what’s the final fate of the Joker, based on what happened to him at the start of the book. The book is promising, but needs to show something excellent to gain attention. Still, it’s not like DC’s gonna cut the titular Detective Comics, so neither am I.
Batman: The Dark Knight
Batman seems to be the Wolverine of DC Comics: he has a lot of his own books, and he even makes appearances in other books to help shore up their popularity (see: Hawk and Dove, I Vampire) . As a Batman fan I’m glad to read more Bat-stories, but the character might just be stretched a little bit too thin. And if we had to cut one Batman book from the New 52, I’d choose this one (we certainly can’t cut any of the other three). Batman: The Dark Knight‘s storyline so far has involved a mysterious white rabbit and a hodgepodge of Batman’s enemies escaped from the asylum. Seriously, there’s a new one every issue: Two-Face in #2, Clayface as Joker in #3, Deathstroke in #4, Scarecrow in #5, Venom in #6 and #7, Mad Hatter in #8. Then there’s the cameos by Flash, Superman and Wonder Woman. It’s like the writer finally got to his dream of drawing Batman and just wants to play with all the characters he can use. It’s not really a bad thing, but I’d appreciate more story arcs that didn’t just involve Batman punching a new supervillain every month. The art is so-so and reminds me of every guy who ever graduated from the Kubert school. The style is very much the same. The book is ok, I’d keep reading it if it were around, but probably wouldn’t miss it if they cut it.
Batman and Robin
What makes the current combination of Batman and Robin interesting is that unlike Bruce’s relationship with the previous Robins Dick and Tim (and even Jason) where having a partner was seen to improve Batman’s temperament and bring a lighter side to the superhero team, in Damian’s case he’s very much as grim as his father what with the whole being raised by assassins bit. And we get exactly what we can expect – Bruce trying to teach Damian how to become a better person despite his upbringing and despite forces around them trying to bring Damian down into the dark side. The art is a bit uneven but it works, and the book is well worth the read.
It was a bit controversial when they revealed Barbara Gordon would be getting her legs back with the reboot. Oracle had been a staple of the Batman family for so long that fans would surely miss her, not to mention the fans of previous Batgirls Cass Cain and Stephanie Brown (neither of which have been seen in action in the New 52). While the events of The Killing Joke haven’t been retconned away (Barbara explicitly recalls the shooting incident in several flashbacks), they haven’t explained yet as of this writing the “miracle” that gave Barbara back the use of her legs. The current storylines haven’t been particularly exciting; I think I enjoyed Stephanie’s schoolgirl problems more, but they’re entertaining enough I suppose. The art is okay, if not a bit too shiny. Will continue reading.
I like Batwing if only for the fact that a superhero from Africa has his own titular book. Most of the first story arc (which spans the first eight books) takes place in Africa and delves into the history of superheroes on that continent. It also shows a bit of what life is like under the grip of African warlords. The exposure to something non-American is nice, although the story arc manages to drag itself over to Gotham for the finale (and it looks like Batwing is going to become part of Justice League International‘s roster). The art style is crisp, unique and refreshing, I approve of this book.
I really like the artwork here and the panel layouts. They all feel so crisp and I love paging through them. The stories are okay, except that they don’t put enough effort towards the accessibility of the character. I’ve read some of Batwoman’s history before so I know a bit what she’s about, but this book mostly just dives straight in and expects the reader to “get it”. It’s nice that Batwoman doesn’t end up as one of Batman’s “formal” allies. Instead she ends up working with a certain government agency. (This book is also not part of the Night of Owls crossover I think). However, I find some story details a bit tough to follow, not sure if it’s because of the unusual layouts or the lack of introductory detail – I find myself having to read each issue one more time to get most of the details. They’re usually worth it though, and this is a book I’m going to keep following.
The story arcs so far dig into Dick’s background with the Haly Circus, something I haven’t been too familiar with before. Near the end of the first eight books it ties in to the Batman Court of Owls storyline, adding a deeper back story to Haly’s Circus than previous story lines had shown. The book is interesting and the art is okay, though it’s not one of the titles I feel like I have to read immediately.
This book has trouble keeping my interest. It’s mostly Catwoman getting into thieving hijinks (and occasionally having sex with the Batman). Well, at least the story gives us a different perspective of life on Gotham’s streets. The art isn’t spectacular, but it’s not bad. I’ll probably keep reading it, at lower priority.
Birds of Prey
I’ve never read the previous Birds of Prey series, so I’m not sure how this compares, but the book is interesting enough. I like the team’s variety – there’s one of Batman’s archvillains here, Black Canary is always cool, I’m not entirely sure Katana is sane, and I like the way Starling handles things. The art is passable, though not really standing out for me. No reason to drop this title.
Red Hood and the Outlaws
This series kicked off with a bit of controversy regarding the mangling of Starfire’s character. In fact it confused me a bit with Starfire’s vague recollections of being with Dick Grayson; I’m not sure whether the New Teen Titans era exists in the New 52 (the Teen Titans book seems to imply that the New 52 incarnation is the first one). Despite the problems with Starfire’s characterizations, I’ve found the stories so far pretty interesting. The plots mostly delves into Jason Todd’s background and what happened to him between the time he was brought back by the League of Assassins and when he resurfaced as the Red Hood. The art is pretty good, it’s probably one of my favorite in the entire New 52. It’s nice and shiny and not too conventional. This is one of the books I read immediately when it comes out.
Ugh, these reviews are taking longer to write than I thought. Next up: Superman and Green Lantern.