Good evening Gothamites from high atop the hills of The Palisades just east of stately Wayne Manor to the decrepit depths of Crime Alley we bid you welcome to this week’s installment of The Weekly Bat Signal, where we chew the fat about The Bat and get down to the nitty-gritty about Gotham City. Strangely enough, if you are looking for a comic book dedicated to the daring do of our beloved Dark Knight Detective you might want to skip Batman: The Dark Knight#24 which features Batman on the cover but he is nowhere to be found inside the book, seriously not a single panel, and pick up Talon #12 which also boasts a Batman cover however he figures a great deal into the actual narrative and interior art. So we will be taking a look at both of these as well as Beware the Batman#1 and a quick peek at the new Arkham Origins video game released this week.
Let’s begin with Batman: The Dark Knight #24 written by the apparently Clay Face enamored Gregg Hurwitz with gorgeous art by the magnificently talented Alex Maleev. This story arc is a bit bothersome coming on the heels of Villains Month in which the heroes of the DCU were conspicuously absent from their own titles as it does because it presents us with yet another issue of a Batman comic without Batman. This issue is once again dedicated to a villain, Clay Face and the re-tooling of his origin. Origin re-telling seems to be the order of the day for DC especially when it comes to their villains which begs the question, Has DC lost faith in their iconic pantheon of heroes? Sadly the answer appears to be yes but I hope this is a temporary condition and our heroes return to their no so long ago days of glory.
Having said that, this story is extremely well written and very poignant, Clay Face is not a very deep character traditionally which makes this an even greater accomplishment in creating an engrossing back-story. Hurwitz does a fine job of constructing an engaging genesis and building inspiration and motive for Basil’s downward spiral into depravity and criminality. However one of these elements stands out as being slightly too incongruous to mesh with the otherwise cleverly constructed origin and that is the manner in which the transformative substance actually enters Basil’s anatomy and subsequently begins the metamorphosis into Clay Face. The Penguin’s involvement is not problematic for me nor is the rejection that Basil faced from everyone in his entire life prior to becoming Clay Face from schoolmates to casting directors; he was treated like a pariah. In fact the most poignant moments of the narrative are those flashback sequences which speak volumes in explaining the birth of a villain. I look forward to seeing where Hurwitz takes this previously shallow character now that he has imbued Clay Face with some genuine, viable emotions.
As good as the writing is the highlight of this sans-Batman issue is Alex Maleev’s stunning artwork. He possesses all the perfect attributes of a Batman artist; the darkly emotive tonal quality, the kinetic, energetic line work and organic, visceral story-telling ability. This guy has it all and that is what makes this issue all the more frustrating, I want to see Maleev draw Batman, especially in a Batman comic book. Suffice to say this is a visually gorgeous book and well worth a read particularly if you are a huge fan of Clay Face or of Alex Maleev who, by the way draws an amazingly creepy Clay Face.
Next up is Talon #12 written by Scott Snyder protégé James Tynion IV with art by Emanuel Simeoni and featuring lots of Batman. The story centers on Batman and Calvin Rose working on the current Bane situation which is as we all know is the subject of its own mini-series. I really liked this issue especially new artist Emanuel Simeoni, his work is clean, dynamic and extremely energetic, keep this guy on your radar I expect to see big things from him. However on the writing side of things, Tynion IV will be leaving the book which he along with Scott Snyder has created. Tynion IV is becoming his own writer, stepping out of Snyder’s shadow somewhat and that is what I think is at the core of his departure. I look forward to seeing what he goes on to do but I am sad to see him leave Talon.
The chemistry between Batman and Calvin Rose is quite unlike the dynamic shared with any of the various Robins in that Rose has no aspirations to be part of a team. He is very much his own man yet he realizes he has much to learn. The beauty of Tynion IV’s handling of Rose is that he makes him own his mistakes and learn from them, he is the perennial flawed hero and that’s okay because it humanizes him giving him the air of an Everyman. I like this book a lot and I hope it gets the time and opportunity to grow and develop the readership this character deserves.
The irony continues here in Gotham, as in the very same week that Beware the Batman #1 the comic book is released, the Cartoon Network announces that the animated series of the same name will suffer a similar fate as Young Justice and Green Lantern, both animated series at the same network. Well the show has disappeared from the current schedule and will remain gone at least until January according to Cartoon Network. The computer generated series delivered eleven of its twenty-six ordered episodes but you can still follow these characters in comic book form courtesy of Ivan Cohen and Luciano Vecchio however don’t expect continuity to be a very high priority if this first issue is any indication. Overall though this book is a solid all ages read for younger Bat-Fans as well as those of us who followed the recent CGI series. The creative involved does a really nice job of retaining the tonal quality of the show. Who knows, if the numbers are high enough for sales of the comic maybe that will open Cartoon Networks eyes and wallet to keep the show going.
That brings us to our final piece of Bat business this week, the Arkham Origins video game. This game’s title is somewhat misleading as it is in no way an origin of Arkham in anyway however it is set up to be a prequel to Arkham City. As Batman games go, it is hard not to make a good one. Let’s face it Batman has the best rogue’s gallery going and Batman himself is the baddest man on two feet, so when you combine those two elements you can’t miss. Arkham Origins is basically more of the same excellent combat system with a little less attention to detail that made Arkham City so great.
The eight hours of story includes all the traditional Batman tropes; his self-imposed isolation and drive to work alone and the extant he will go to avoid taking a life seem to be paramount in this portrayal of The Dark Knight. For a game this does boast a pretty well thought out plot and even a plausible reason for Batman to face so many villains in one night, a fifty million dollar bounty on his head. The absence of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill as Batman and Joker are definitely noticed if not glaringly so it is because of the solid performances by their replacements particularly nicely done is Troy Baker’s turn as The Joker.
Overall Arkham Origins is not the highlight of the trilogy mainly due to its lack of new ideas however it is still a great game with excellent free-flowing combat and predator takedowns. I definitely recommend picking it up and beating on Gotham’s most wanted for hours on end.
Well that’s going to do it for another week here at The Weekly Bat Signal; I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed bringing it to you. Keep your eyes to the skies for a special Bat Signal coming up soon in which I examine the most recent films of the newest chosen one to don the cape and cowl, Ben Affleck. That’s right fellow Gothamites I am going to watch, with an open mind; Gone Baby Gone, The Town and Argo to ascertain whether or not Mr. Affleck will do us proud under the cowl. So I hope to see you here for that as well as for next week’s installment, right here same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.
Follow Shawn Warner on Twitter: @shawnwarner629