Batman #33 – Comic Review

Batman #33 marks the end of Zero Year, which has chronicled the Batman’s first year in Gotham City. The last battle in the Ridder’s war of the mind takes place here. If Batman cannot solve twelve riddles, a squadron of jets will destroy the centre of Gotham City. The clock is ticking. Batman #33 offers:

  • Tension filled artwork
  • A great value discussion: Zero year represents a personal struggle against pain
  • A suitable comic for students studying perseverance, resilience, and symbols of strength in comics.
  • A worth story to celebrate 75 years of Batman comics

A series of very close shots build tension in the early pages. The Riddler’s exotic and toxic green colours dominate this comic. Black pages also appear, which are important to Bruce Wayne’s backstory.

Scenes in this comic relies on very close shots at dramatic points to punctuate the story arc. Particularly when the ending approaches. This restricts what the reader can see, and adds to the tension. It is not until the end of the comic that the comic pages allow the artwork to flow widely across the page.

Green dominates the comic book. It’s the Riddler’s influence. Early on in the story, the Riddler plays a game with Batman. The colour of his green suit seems to flood the panels, saturating the air with neon green light, and even warping the colour of his eyes. Scenes where Commissioner Gordon stands outside in the bright afternoon sunlight contrast with their variety of colours.

It’s also worth noting the blackout. Two pages of the story are blacked out. They only have a small amount of dialog. They tie into Bruce Wayne’s backstory, which sets up the comic’s values.

Without his guardians – Commissioner Gordon, Lucius Fox, and Alfred – the Batman would be unable to confront the Riddler.

In a long speech delivered close to the finale, Bruce Wayne comments that zero represents nothingness. All throughout his conflict with Edward Nygma – The Green Suited Riddler – The double meanings of seemingly everyday and ordinary objects, names, and places has become clear many times.

Through Bruce’s complete backstory, the value of zero becomes more clear.

Lucius Fox and Commissioner James Gordon are heroic, and Alfred is a lifesaver to the Batman. There is no way that any of the Riddler’s plans could be foiled without these three men supporting Bruce. They are his guardians, and have a lot to teach him.

The comic values facing pain, rather than becoming numb to the world. Zero year becomes a symbol of the battle for identity and personal strength against pain. Batman becomes a symbol of strength.

A major secret in Batman’s past is revealed. The pain he went through after the murder of his parents reached a point so intense, he voluntarily sought electroshock therapy. His plan was to be rebooted. Like an appliance, the brain runs on electricity. Bruce almost went through with the therapy to reboot himself. To delete himself, and the pain as well.

He decided to remain Bruce Wayne at the last moment, and find the reason to keep fighting and living. Before he could articulate what he wanted, Bruce states he knew he needed something important: he called it the “crazy thing that keeps me from going crazy”. Many years later, the Batman arrived.

This is a story about identity, and symbols. The Riddler’s attempt to deprive Gotham city of light and technology – resetting it back to zero – is defeat. Batman’s fight across zero year symbolises the fight for identity and personal strength against giving up, and defeat, in the face of pain. The Batman became Bruce Wayne’s reason to keep going – a symbol of strength he could use to protect Gotham City.

It’s a fitting anniversary story to celebrate 75 years of Batman comics.

Batman #33 is published by DC Comics ($4.99 USD). Scott Snyder (W.) Greg Capullo (P.) Danny Miki (I.) FCO Plascencia (C.) Dezi Sienty (L.) Cover artwork by Capullo, Miki, and Plascencia.

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Batman #27 – Comic Review

What Batman #27 Offers

Batman #27 is a part of a large story: an episode of the current Batman story arc called “Zero Year”.

The comic book itself divides its pages between retelling the Batman’s origins, and introducing more perspectives on The Batman from characters such as Alfred, Commissioner Gordon, Barbara Gordon, and the Riddler.

These are valuable points of view. Particularly Alfred’s ideas.

Apart from a reflection on heroic symbols and their meaning, the comic entertains and continues a good story about The Batman. It’s a good comic for readers who are Batman fans or enjoy horror and crime, and superhero style stories.

The comic entertains. It has moments that are profound. Panels useful for older students appear. Teachers might draw on some of these for teaching vengeance and justice themes. Mostly, Batman #27 entertains though. This is not a flaw – the comic book entertains with a great story, cryptic riddles, and Batman references.

What Batman #27 offers:

  • A great super hero comic
  • Powerful and Detailed artwork
  • References to Batman comics history – The Dark Knight Returns graphic novel
  • Revenge and justice themes

Cast

The moment that Barbara Gordon – Batgirl – first saw the Dark Knight appears in this issue.

The Riddler threatens rather than jokes. Here he’s a mastermind. One step ahead of the The Batman, The Riddler executes his plans without wasting time. His character behaves like Ozymandias from Watchmen. There’s a sense of frustration – if only The Batman could find him, and stop this man in green and purple skyping insults and riddles.

Jim Gordon reflects on his early career in Gotham. Hounded by more experienced officers and mistreated. Ignored and shunned for being an honest cop in a room full of men up to the neck in bribes. He reflects on the ordeal the senior staff inflicted on him.

Art

Inside is a sequence of panels where Gotham’s streets bathe in sepia light.Later, The Batman sits on a wire in the rain. Behind him there is lightning. He’s a shadow. It’s a thrill to see this reference to The Dark Knight Returns.

At one point, The Batman is on the run from the police. The colours are toxic, and painful to look at. It’s not until Jim Gordon arrives to pull the Batman from Gotham river’s black water that the colours lose their toxic shades. They change to sombre tones of purple and orange. The water changes grey. What’s reinforced by this chameleon-like shift from harsh to warm colour is that The Batman can trust Jim Gordon.

Themes, Ethics, Values

Then Alfred reflects on his own experience with the Batman. He raises a great discussion about the power of symbols, and about the value of justice, hope, and inspiration over scars, darkness, and revenge.

He tell Bruce Wayne that in his experience, symbols of punishment and rage don’t last. The Batman needs to more than just punishment. Instead, Alfred cautions Bruce that everyone can see what he is doing. Some of those watching want to help. He needs to recognise this, and to understand that a symbol – a heroic symbol – inspires the best in people and lasts. It does not fall apart at the seams. It does not wither away and decay.

Batman #27 is published by DC Comics ($3.99 USD). Scott Snyder (W.) Greg Capullo (P.) Danny Miki (I.) FCO Plascencia (C.) Steve Wands (L.) Cover artwork by Capullo and Plascencia

I began this review stating the comic entertains the reader, and has only a few moments where themes of revenge and justice are discussed. After re-reading the comic book, a deeper meaning might be nested inside a story that entertains on the surface.

Reading a single issue, however, does not give enough detail in this case. Reading all of the “Zero year” issues, either as single comic books or collected into a graphic novel, will give a big-picture perspective. More meaning might emerge.

For example, there is the yellow moon references laced through Batman #27.

There are spoilers below, so read the list below with caution:

  • The comic opens in Tokyo, 1946. A woman in front of a yellow moon sings a song about “Pale, pale moonlight”
  • On the next page, Batman is caught in a spotlight the same colour and shape as the yellow moon on the previous page.
  • Towards the end of the comic, Batman picks up a yellow, military helmet with “Tokyo Moon” printed on it.

If there is a pattern to these cryptic clues, I can’t see it yet. If anyone has a theory or idea, please leave a comment.

Comics Review – Batman #19

First Thoughts on Batman #19

The comic has shock cover art, which you can see below. Bruce Wayne vowed never to use guns after his parents murder. It’s a good hook.

For a comic that has good references to chemistry, and good science fiction, I was surprised to read the phrase “Mystical Clay” in this issue.

It’s not a spoiler to mention the Batman villain Clayface makes a monstrous appearance. Who is Clayface? A man named Basil Karlo was a failed actor – the “Mystical Clay” gave him super-human powers. He can  shape shift into people and objects. The catch: he’s not human, and now is a golem-like lump of clay with giant, jagged teeth.

Mourning for Batman’s son continues. There are several references to death in the story and art. Funerals and Smoke for example.

The comic is another great segment to the new Batman story by Scott Snyder.

The art of Batman #19

Bright colours in a gothic Batman comic are at odds, and look terrible if badly handled. They work well when FCO Plascencia and Greg Capullo capture daylight scenes, and the brighter days from Bruce Wayne’s memories, however.

There’s a new villain named The Reaper who attacks Batman and Robin in a flashback. He sports a sleek, metal, Terminator skull mask on black cloth with a pair of scythe gadgets that conceal a pair of guns.

The design seems deliberately overdrawn, like a comic character from an earlier decade. The effect is that this sequence feels as though it took place back in time.

The Reaper has a van filled with poisoned flowers. Batman and Robin foil his plan to deliver the flowers to the funeral of a rival crime family. As they walk away from the upturned van, they pass through a veil of white smoke. A close up on Damian Wayne presents a panel filled with that smoke.

This use of white smoke gives a sense that Damian is fading away. It’s a good method to tell the story of the lost son with art.

Earlier in the comic, smoke is used again – and again the smoke represents a sense of loss. This is a *spoiler* though. You can highlight the sentences below if you want to read it but be warned:

  • Commissioner Gordon tries to stop Bruce Wayne from robbing a Gotham Bank. Bruce fires a gun, which is a problem as I mentioned at the start of the review, but even worse for Gordon who sees a man and a hero he admires turning to crime. He has lost his confidence in Gotham city’s greatest philanthropist 

A bit more on Batman #19

This issue is a great story about deception, which is works for a super hero detective, and for the mystery genre.

Batman’s mourning continues to dominate – of course Bruce will continue to carry the loss. It’s a part of the Batman myth now. Bruce Wayne refuses to attend a funeral for a colleague formerly employed at Wayne Enterprises, Brian Wade, for obvious reasons. This makes a total of two references to funerals in the comic.

The writing and art continue to make this a great example of super-hero comics.

Batman #19 is published by DC comics

Comics Review – Batman #17

True Horror is disturbing and unmistakably dreadful. Reading Batman #17  – the “punchline” – of Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, and Jonathan Glapion’s Death of the Family, I felt the weight of a strong dread build up inside me. This is true horror, and a comic worth tracking down and reading – not just for horror fanatics, but any reader who want’s to investigate the dark psychology of The Batman.

Batman #17

Batman fights against his restraints as Joker switches on the lights: he is trapped in a cave, his family similarly restrained and seated around a large table. Covered, silver platters sit in front of them. A puppet of a bat skeleton makes mild clicking sound as the Joker waves it around the room. A fly buzzes past – attracted by the Joker’s nightmarish, decayed face. The story lurches toward it’s finale.

The big question about Death of the Family was would Batman family of costumed heroes live? The question is answered, slowly, with suspense maintained throughout the final issue of the plot. It’s this suspense that builds up the feelings of dread mentioned above. Characters move in and out of danger like a deadly pendulum.

The art conveys and builds up the mood, tension, and suspense. Desperation and fear, in addition to relief and resignation are all clearly communicated through the pencil work on the characters facial expressions.

Panel arrangements are effective. The viewer is placed close to the horror -particularly on the final, closing panels as one last joke plays out. A deep crevasse in the earth is drawn to look as vertical as possible. The angle of the panel captures the height of the drop, inducing a slight sense of vertigo on top of the other emotions the comic elicits.

Despite the heavy violence at the beginning of the Death of the Family, the real power of the Joker’s ploy is the psychological scarring he has attempted, and most likely succeeded, in leaving behind.

It’s not stated exactly what the Joker told Robin, Red Robin, Red Hood, Batgirl, and Nightwing as he held them captive in the dark (while Batman was unconscious after the events of Batman #16).It’s clear, however, that some connection between the characters was lost at that point. Possibly, the younger characters have decided that Batman’s constant battles with the Joker are too dangerous – they have started making excuses not to join him at Wayne Manor. Scott Snyder will no doubt explore and expand on this now estranged family.

Batman #17 is published by DC Entertainment.

Comics Review – Batman #16

Snyder, Capullo, and Glapion Bring the Batman Story arc Death of the Family to its second last issue with Batman#16, a story about an King returning to his castle, and greeting his court jester – The Joker.

Batman #16

Themes of Royalty, Kings, and Kingdoms that Snyder stated would be the Joker’s plan of attack against Batman come to fruition. A wide variety of lettering and colouring choices build suspense, elicit actions, and command dread – shadows and darkness are absolutely black, and the lettering captures the sounds of the beleaguered asylum. the issue takes the reader on Batman’s journey through a transformed Arkham Asylum, and the sense of his fear is palpable. Batman, however, thrives on fear.

The Joker has given names and titles to familiar members of Batman’s rogues Gallery:

  • Asylum Guards and Staff are Servants and Peasants.
  • Inmates of the Asylum are Knights.
  • Mr.Freeze is Batman’s groundsman.
  • Clayface is the royal player.
  • Scarecrow is the royal physician.
  • Penguin is the king’s Bishop.
  • The Riddler is the Royal Strategist.
  • Two-face is the king’s Judge.

I’m not sure if Poison Ivy should appear there, or if there is a queen. Regardless, the art used to depict how the characters take on their roles conveys depth in the story. The guards and staff are dressed in Batman and Joker costumes, and forced to dance for days. The Joker’s relies on symbolic torture to make his statements. Their endless dancing is a parody of the endless conflict between the Joker and the Dark Knight.

Batman literally becomes a dark knight after the battle with the inmates – Joker’s knights. The battle takes place with a fuzzy filter over the panels after Batman drops an explosive smoke bomb. The art jumps from point to point in the melee, and the filter effectively conveys the confusion and chaos, giving a sense of Tinnitus. There is no lettering to punctuate the scene, and it enhances the ringing chaos. After the battle, Batman mounts a black horse, and rides it up to the next level.

Of course, the Joker’s attempt at symbols falls apart and decays – How can Mr.Freeze be considered a groundsman when Poison Ivy is associated with plants? Since this is something the Joker has created, it’s really an ironic joke, and an excuse to have Batman seated on his “throne”, which is an antique electric chair. There is also a backup story where the Joker puts an arrogant Two Face in his place.

Batman #16 is published by DC Entertainment

 

 

Comics Review – Batman #14

Scott Snyder continues his writing for DC comics with Batman: Death of the Family, a story featuring an unhinged and brutal version of the Joker.

Batman #14

In the previous issue, Joker trapped Batman in a steel vat, and started pumping glowing green chemicals into the cylinder. This is the same event that originally created the Joker.

The worst part was Harley Quinn, streaming mascara running down her face, whispering to the Batman that the only reason she was going along with the Joker’s plan was she hoped the chemicals would turn Batman into a new Joker – and she would then start over as his Harlequin. New identity is theme of the story  surfacing in this issue.

As an example, the chemicals damage Batman’s costume, and burn the outer fabric from the kevlar, like he is shedding skin, or losing his identity. The Joker has literally shed skin, and what he has done to his face is an example of the dark turn Batman is taking into the Horror genre.  Jim Gordon, bleeding from heparin poisoning, and scrabbling to hold onto Batman as he collapses, is a another gory example.

There is a showdown between Batman and the Joker, which is a welcome break in the tension established so far. The Joker talks about his plan to rid Batman of his lengthy list of allies. He says that “Bat Family” – Nightwing, Batwing, Batwoman, Catwoman, Batgirl, Robin, Red Robin, Red Hood, and Alfred – are “true villains” who have ruined Batman.

Scott Snyder has talked about the idea behind the story  – that the Batman’s family are weighing him down. The Joker reveals two major points in his plan here. He knows a secret Batman has kept from his friends and he has recorded this information, along with other insights, in a book bound in the skin of a bat. Again, a reference to skin.

The art team have captured an itching insanity with top class penciling, inking, and colouring. Shadows are menacing and inescapable, and the only sources of light are not white, but acrid green and burnt orange. The Joker could be a ragged zombie, drawn as something increasingly less human by Capullo.

It feels as though there are still more important events and twists in the coming issues to see before the themes of the story become more clear. I am definitely looking forward to where this original Batman story is going.

Batman#14 is published by DC Comics.

Weekly Comics

This Week’s List

  1. Batman #11

1. Batman #11

Impressions

The previous eleven months of Batman comics has been on the fight to save Gotham City from A society of aristocratic villains called the Court of Owls who wear blank white owl masks to hide their faces. There was a farfetched twist, and this is a Spoiler alert:

The court have recruited and trained Bruce Wayne’s lost brother Thomas Wayne Junior, named after Bruce’s father. I thought it seemed borderline cliché to introduce a long lost brother as a villain, but the reveal is based on a strange but significant issue of World’s Finest from DC comics as Chris Simms at Comics Alliance researched and reported. Furthermore, the whole point of having a villain calling himself Batman’s brother is not to have a nega-batman who dresses as an owl to commit crime, as though owls were the opposite of bats. The point of the villain, Lincoln March, is to build a story about reversals and reflections:

  • Bruce’s perspective of how much power he has over Gotham City as Batman is reversed and irrevocably changed (All the better for it, as Doug Zawisza states in his complete review of issue 11 on Comic Book Resources) .
  • The Batman is shown a dark and distorted reflection of who he is when Lincoln March becomes the powerful villain Talon.

Repeated references to mirrors, and multiple situations where characters have faced power or role reversals, have been woven effectively throughout this story arc: Scott Snyder’s writing is strong and the collected trade paperbacks on The Court of Owls are essential reading.

Standout Moments

Generally, I liked that ambiguity around Lincoln. It’s not clear who he is until more evidence surfaces. Lincoln describes how he could see the Wayne building reflected in the mirrored glass of the nearby Crown building on Gotham City’s skyline. This is, I think, the best Dark Reflection theme expressed in this story arc. Clearly, the Wayne Building imprinted on him when he was a child. The Court of Owls could have taken into consideration this imprint when he was recruited. At this time, however, it is still unknown.

Greg Capullo and FCO Plascencia provide an excellent and clever cover to Issue #11. There are flames rising up in front of Batman that look like wisps of flame from a larger bonfire. looking closer, the fire is in the shape of bats, rising phoenix-like to new life. The cover confirms that Batman is likely to emerge from this battle alive. Bright orange flame, and the jet black shadows cast from it, are the high points of the art, which bring the action to life. Jonathan Glapion’s inking is consistent and stylish, adding a clear accent to character facial expressions. The peach glow of the afternoon light in the back up story backgroud make the final conversation between Bruce and Alfred feel safe and relaxed. The relaxed poses imply that the characters are finally winding down after The Court of Owls attack.

Another background used is a maze, which was a good surprise and slows the pace at just the right moment.

The maze background. Batman stands on the walls of what might be the same Labyrinth in the panel on the upper right.

Even after the dust settles though, The Court of Owls and Lincoln March are still around if the activity at a Comic Con 2012 DC comics panel is anything to go by.