‘The Weekly Bat-Signals’ with Shawn Warner, Episode 17

Greetings and apologies fellow Gothamites, I must offer my most sincere request for your forgiveness for my absence last week. It seems even in Gotham the holidays can cause more chaos than a Riddler produced blackout. I tell you my friends that I would rather face The Joker, Killer Croc and Bane than a mob of WalMart Christmas shoppers waiting on queue for a deep discounted 52 inch hi def flat screen television, now that’s truly frightening. Suffice to say there are lots of things to talk about however; since we have two weeks of Bat-Books to cover, I am going to focus this week’s Bat Chat on print Comics specifically; Green Arrow #25, this actually contains the first Zero Year appearance of Batman in costume, Batman and Two-Face #25, Batman: The Dark Knight #25, Detective Comics #26 and finally Batman-Superman #6. So settle into a comfy chair with a cup of hot chocolate and whatever device you are reading this on and relax as Gotham is covered in a fluffy white blanket of early season snow.

First up is the Zero Year tie-in, issue #25 of Green Arrow written by the brilliant Jeff Lemire with moody, intense art by Andrea Sorrentino. Lemire gets right to it in this issue, Ollie has just returned from the island to find his mother is trapped in Gotham City during the chaos of The Riddler’s act of terrorism, the blackout he crippled the city with in Batman #24. Honestly this story benefits little from Batman’s appearance; the real dynamic is between Ollie and Diggle. The Gotham City angle works well in providing Ollie and his mother, Moira with an opportunity for a poignant moment which Lemire handles extremely well with tender but not sickeningly sweet dialogue. However this issue is centered on the relationship between Ollie and his soon-to-be partner, John Diggle which mirrors the television version almost beat for beat. This is not a bad thing as that relationship is one of the show’s strongest assets and works equally well in both formats. Lemire goes on to more fully illustrate the connection these two characters share in the back up story which is penciled by Denys Cowan and inked by the legendary Bill Sienkiewicz. Overall this is a really solid enjoyable book that I thought deserved a mention here in the Bat Signal just for featuring the first panel of a costumed Zero Year Dark knight.

Next up is Batman and Two-Face #25 written as always by Peter J. Tomasi with pencils by Patrick Gleason and inks by Mick Gray. This is the second issue to feature Two-Face and the somewhat ambiguous and indistinct character, Erin McKillen. Clearly Tomasi wants McKillen to figure prominently into Bruce and Harvey’s past but he never really makes that connection clear. Instead McKillen comes across as flat, brutally violent without explanation, lacking the psychotic charisma of a true Batman villain and the personality to be interesting on any level. Tomasi has had two issues to flesh this character out, hopefully he will not become obsessed with her and force her into narratives that would be better served by featuring a tried and true member of Batman’s rogues’ gallery or a new villain started from scratch. Despite McKillen’s distracting presence, this issue does go on to be a solid, entertaining read. Tomasi writes some solid dialogue between Batman and Two-Face that really illuminates the complex relationship that Harvey and Bruce share beyond that of hero and villain. However, the prison scene featuring Matches Malone is without a doubt the highlight of this issue, in it Patrick Gleason turns out some of his best pages of this arc.

Now on to Batman: The Dark Knight #25, written by series scribe Gregg Hurwitz with art by the incomparable Alex Maleev. This issue concludes the current arc featuring Clayface which has included some very innovative twists and turns, particularly in showing the depths to which Clayface would go to achieve his goal. Hurwitz cleverly plays up Clayface’s obsession to be liked and appreciated as an actor, his desire for accolades from his audience and the level of depravity that desire drives him to speaks volumes of his neediness. The resolution is arrived at a bit too conveniently in light of the amount of time Hurwitz spent building up to it, but all things considered this is a satisfying finale.

Of course Maleev’s art takes center stage; it’s evocative and dramatic in its melancholy depiction of Gotham’s less traveled areas. Maleev’s Clayface is monstrous and unnerving as his appearance seems to be malleable, taking on subtle changes from page to page, panel to panel. This has been a superb storyline, Hurwitz and Maleev have a chemistry that seems to spawn darker more morose subject matter but boy is it pretty to look at.

That brings us to this week’s Detective #26 written by John Layman with pencils by Aaron Lopresti and inks by veteran Art Thibert. Layman brings a feeling of intimacy to this issue by having Batman narrate the investigative- procedural heavy action. This story is firmly built on Batman’s prowess as a super-sleuth and that is where Layman shines, even his work on Chew can sometimes be rather dense with the police duties. However it is the rapport Batman has with Kirk Langstrom and Langstrom’s perceived need to ease his guilt-ridden sense of decency that makes this story so captivating. The introduction of the intriguing and ominous Bat-Queen as well as a last page appearance of an old “friend” give this issue lots of allusion to future plot lines.

Lopresti’s art is stunning, his exaggerated anatomy used to give Man-Bat a feral, savage ferocity works wonderfully. His meticulous attention to detail, not just on the characters but in the environments in which the action takes place, adds such a dimension of depth to the pages that they almost appear 3D. Art Thibert brings a level of precision to the inking that is second to none. This is a very strong issue with a compelling story and dynamic art, Layman is doing a fantastic job on this title. I would recommend Detective to anyone seeking engaging, thought provoking stories and of course it goes without saying that any true Bat-Fan should be a regular reader of Detective Comics since that is the title in which our Beloved Caped Crusader made his first appearance all the way back in that May of 1939.

Finally this week we have Batman-Superman #6 written by Greg Pak, penciled by Brett Booth and inked by Norm Rapmund. Once again we have a gimmicky feeling issue that is done completely horizontally. This wouldn’t be nearly as annoying as it is if Booth’s art wasn’t so darn dated. This book looks like anything Image put out in the 90’s; I would place Booth somewhere between Liefeld and Lee, not as awful as the former but not quite as good as the latter. Superman’s expression throughout the issue is one of perpetually smelling something bad, his eyes are squinty and his mouth is twisted into a grimace of disapproval. Admittedly Booth is not the worst artist out there, in fact some of his work is not bad but to follow Jae Lee is a task he is just not up to and in contrast really shows his weak areas. However it’s not all bad, his Mongul is intimidating and formidable and there is a double page spread of Batman and Superman locked in combat that is very good as well unfortunately it is all but obliterated by an overzealous lighting effect that washes out the entire piece.

Greg Pak is far from blameless in this fiasco. The premise is utterly preposterous, the dialogue is peppered with too hip gamer lingo that I felt embarrassed reading and the bombastic non-event of Batman’s demise in this narrative just deepened the gimmicky feel of the whole book. It just isn’t very good and that’s a shame because Pak is capable of writing some great stories, as was evident in the first arc. I’m not jumping ship just yet but I am hoping that Pak dusts himself off and gives us something better in the next arc.

Well that’s going to do it for this week’s installment of The Weekly Bat Signal; I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed bringing it to you. If so, join us here next week and every week as we gather to chew the fat about The Bat, get gabby about Gotham and discuss the Dynamic Duo. See you then, same Bat-Time, same Bat-Channel.

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Follow Shawn Warner on Twitter:  @shawnwarner629

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