Greetings from stately Wayne Manor, just outside the Palisades on the outskirts of our fair city of Gotham, where we are wrapping up Villains Month with the final four titles pertaining to the Bat books featured villains being; Joker’s Daughter, Bane, Man-Bat and Killer Croc. This week’s installment is going to focus on these books and a look ahead at the continuation of Zero Year and the titles it will cross-over with. So without further delay let us delve into the twisted minds of Gotham’s villains beginning with Joker’s Daughter.
I wanted to love this book in much the same way that I wanted to love the Joker book way back at the start of Villains Month but alas there was little to love about it. First of all it seems to exist outside any continuity in a world all of its own. Ann Nocenti has written some really good stuff so when I saw that she was the writer on this confusing foray into who knows where I was hopeful but again I was to be disappointed. I should mention here that this has been par for the course where Villains Month is concerned; in fact the mis-steps have outnumbered the highlights in this endeavor by a wide margin. Charles Soule singularly stands out in my mind as the creator with the most books worthy of praise, that’s not to say others haven’t turned in some fine work because they have; Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Riddler was excellent as were books by Greg Pak, Matt Kindt and John Layman to name just a few. However that does not diminish the dashed hope when a book falls this short of the mark. Ann Nocenti does nothing at all to shed any light upon Joker’s Daughter’s origin hence we know no more about the character after reading this other than she is a crazy homeless girl who happens upon the Joker’s severed face and finds it comfortable to wear while she gallivants around her underground wonderland. The narrative adds nothing to the Forever Evil plot either in fact it does nothing to substantiate its inclusion in this event at all. As a character Joker’s Daughter lacks the charisma to sustain a full story maybe that’s why this seemed to drag on by the mid-point. There is very little in the way of plot development here, in fact structure of any type is almost completely absent. Artist Georges Jeanty has a skewed perspective on anatomy which gives most of the action scenes a disjointed look. Textually and visually this one is a huge mis-step from start to finish. I thought there was going to be intrigue and interest that would carry this character into the Bat Universe however that is not to be. I hope that in future arcs this character will be used properly and allowed to live up to the potential that exists there for some truly engrossing stories. I would not recommend this book to anyone but completists.
Next up we have Bane by Peter Tomasi and Graham Nolan. This book screams nineties, Nolan’s art is so indicative of that era and John Kalsz’s vibrant saturated colors really enhance the look of that time. The story is one of Bane needing his massive ego constantly stroked by sycophants and hangers-on. There is quite a bit of back story re-told in this issue but Tomasi handles the material in an entertaining way. The violence is over the top but when viewed through the lens of Nolan’s art it seems quite tame even when Bane viciously slaps a young girl desirous of his approval to the point of gleefully witnessing her own abusive father’s death at Bane’s hands the art neuters the brutality. Overall this was little more than a prelude to Arkham War #1 which I hope is vastly better. This one is worth a look especially if you are a fan of Bane and want to read a solid re-telling of his origin.
Detective #23.4 features an entertaining Man-Bat tale as told by Frank Tieri with art by Scot Eaton. The story begins with a hasty handling of Kirk Langstrom’s rematch with his psychotic wife known as She-Bat. The narrative picks up the pace when things turn to Langstrom alone. The events transpire concurrently with Forever Evil which lends this issue a sense of being part of the larger narrative; this is something that has been conspicuously missing from most of the other Bat books from Villains Month. Tieri does a nice job of painting Langstrom as a tormented man who wants more than anything to do good but just keeps falling short in his attempt to fill Batman’s shoes. In the month of Langstrom’s life this story covers we witness a man come apart at the seams. Tieri uses Langstrom’s diary entries as a barometer of his invading madness to unsettling effect. Visually Scot Eaton renders Gotham as a city in its death throes; urban decay and dilapidation run rampant over most of the city. Eaton does a solid job of structuring his pages to compliment Tieri’s brisk pace. All in all this is one in the upper echelon of Bat Villains books. I would recommend picking this one up.
Finally that brings us to Killer Croc by Tim Seeley with art by Francis Portela. This one gets my vote for best Bat Villain book of the week. Seeley re-imagines Croc as a miscreant worthy of our sympathy due to the shabby way life has treated him. The great part of Seeley’s narrative for me is the contrast of Croc with the crooked cops on the G.C.P.D; our allegiance is craftily diverted to Croc as we see the cruelty with which he is treated. The only person to show Waylon Jones any kindness as a child is an amputee cop who later plays a very important part in the story providing one the most poignant moments in this issue. Portela’s art style is very clean and concise which I like however I don’t think it is the best choice for a Killer Croc story, I would have preferred to see someone more like Sean Murphy or Declan Shalvey who have a more kinetic style that I find much more conducive to conveying the chaotic world of the sewer tunnels. However Seeley and Portela do a bang up Croc story bringing out the hidden tenderness and allowing us to care about the villain almost to the point of making him an anti-hero, the dirty cops are certainly more villainous. This is the one I would get if I was only getting one of these Villains books. It is vastly more satisfying than the others and therefore more worth your comic book dollar.
In closing out this installment of Weekly Bat Signals I would like to list the books that Year Zero will be crossing over with in the coming weeks. Those books being; Detective#25, Batgirl#25, Batwing#25, Birds of Prey#25, Catwoman#25, Flash#25, Green Arrow#25, Green Lantern Corps#25, Nightwing#25, Red Hood and the Outlaws#25 and Action Comics#25. This comes as somewhat of a surprise because when Zero Year was first announced it was only to run in the pages of Batman proper, now we see it touching a large part of the DCU. It remains to be seen just how much these tie-ins will matter in the big picture but certainly some of them will be worth picking up and we will do our best to let you know which ones those end up being. So until next week, keep watching the nighttime Gotham sky for your Weekly Bat Signals, same Bat time, same Bat channel.
Follow Shawn Warner on Twitter: @shawnwarner629