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Critical Review: DC’s “New 52” Batman Titles Part 1

Gotham’s Caped Crusader and his pointy eared cohorts have a staggering list of books coming out each month. We’ve got of course Batman and then there’s Detective Comics, Batman The Dark Knight, Batman & Robin, Catwoman, Batwoman, Batgirl, Nightwing and finally Batwing. Oh and then you know, he’s a member of the Justice League.

Now that we’re heading into DC’s New 52 3rd issues, I feel it’s a good time to actually step back and take a look at where these new series are going. It’s really unfair to judge a book on just one issue and you won’t see that being done around here, at least by me. So I’ll be going over most of the “new” titles and letting you know what I feel are the best titles and which books I won’t be bothering with again.

Gotham’s Caped Crusader and his pointy eared cohorts have a staggering list of books coming out each month. We’ve got of course Batman and then there’s Detective Comics, Batman The Dark Knight, Batman & Robin, Catwoman, Batwoman, Batgirl, Nightwing and finally Batwing. Oh and then you know, he’s a member of the Justice League. I’ll be honest and say I haven’t read Batwing or Batwoman, so I can’t and won’t comment on them. They may be fantastic, but my utility belt is already overflowing with bat-content and I’m either not familiar with the character (Batwing), or just not interested (Batwoman). We’re just going to focus on Batman, Detective, Dark Knight and Batman & Robin in this article, I’m not made out of time over here.
Out of all of these, Detective Comics stands out the most for me and the one that had me eagerly awaiting issue number 2. Tony Salvador Daniel is nailing it in both art and the excellent horror-esque writing really sets this book apart from the rest of the pack. I’m not too keen on Tomeu Morey’s painterly coloring but it’s not the end of the world. The storytelling is very much “detective-y” going through Batman’s motions as he pins down who he’s looking for through forensics and old fashioned…detective work. There is a moment in the first issue that is a little heavy handed where Batman says “Forget about it Joker. You can’t run. I own the night!” which is super cheesy but I have to be honest and I did kind of cheer at it. The introduction of this Dollmaker villain and his ties with the Joker are interesting and I really want to see where it’s going. Especially with the surprise ending of issue 2, which seems to be a theme in these books.

Batman is written by Scott Snyder of American Vampire and numerous Batman titles in the past. Filling in on interior art is Greg Capullo, who’s art has grown better and better over the years and really shines with this new title. I can’t help but see a little bit of Twitch in Commissioner Gordon though. Batman seems to deal more with Batman/Bruce Wayne and his relationship to Gotham City and his family’s history there. At least that’s how I see it forming up so far. There’s an excellent exchange between Bruce/Batman and Dick/Nightwing in the Batcave, Alfred also shines in the series so far. What I’m really loving so far about these new issues that they’re introducing new players into the game. Take the mysterious assassin in Batman, who works for the Court of Owls, who aren’t supposed to exist for example. Someone who actually went toe to toe with Batman and almost manages to kill him. Like the Dollmaker, I can’t wait to find out who and what this Court of Owls is about. An overall good title showcasing all of the Dark Knight’s many skills.

Moment's like these really help Batman shine and show that a Batman title doesn't have to always be all "I own the night!"

Speaking of the Dark Knight, we’re not done yet, 2 more titles to go, and I’m only brushing the surface here. The Dark Knight is on my “I’m not terribly fond of you, but I kind of want to see what’s going to happen.” list. I like the whole opening with the idea of fear and it’s power over people and how Batman is supposed to be fearless. It’s really neat and I was hoping for some Scarecrow action, who happens to be one of my favorites in the Rogue’s Gallery. The idea of a drug that takes away fear is really interesting, not sure why it turns Two-Face into a giant hulking monster other than the fact that David Finch really likes drawing giant hulking brutes with lots of muscle definition. The twist at the end of issue 2 just made me cringe.
When you’ve just read Detective Comics it makes no sense. Doesn’t DC have team meetings where they go over everyone’s scripts and try to make them fit together? The events in Detective and Batman can plausibly happen within the same month or similar timeframe, but Dark Knight just destroys the illusion of a cohesive “relaunch”. I know that’s a really nit-picky thing to do in comics, but what’s the point of doing a “re-launch” if it’s not to make your universe solidified and merged? I’ll be honest and say I didn’t read Flashpoint, but I got the gist of it that somehow multiple timelines were streamlined into one and that’s why things are so weird. What I don’t understand is that it seems that all of the events of Return of Bruce Wayne/Battle for the Cowl seem to have taken place, but then in Justice League, nobody knows anyone and Batman is still pretty much a myth. Once again, doesn’t DC have meetings about this?
Batman & Robin is all about Bruce and Damian coming to grips with their father/son and hero/sidekick dynamics. Bruce really wants to be a good father, like he was with Tim and Dick, but Damian came to him with so much emotional baggage that it’s really difficult. When in the field Batman constantly has to rein Damian in and keep him from using deadly force. The idea of a child that young being what can only be described as a psychopath really hits hard in this book. Damian constantly tries to impress upon Bruce that he’s not a child, and is in full “Quit treating me like a child.” mode all the time. I just want to hit him. There is a soul crushing moment in issue 2 that Alfred is witness to and really hits home how broken their relationship has become.

Having Batman as a father must be AWESOME.
As far as the storyline goes I really don’t know who the Morgan guy is and what he has against the Batman, Inc initiative, which I’m honestly not fond of anyways. How much longer until each one of them gets their own book? That also goes back to “What happened to this re-launch idea?” I was speaking of before. All I’m asking for is a bit of cohesive storytelling.
Overall I am enjoying the Bat-titles, and I look forward to them each month so far. If you’re still on the fence I’d say give Detective and Batman a chance. I don’t really see Dark Knight or Batman & Robin staying in my pull box much longer honestly. I’ll be working through the whole list of titles over the next month so keep a look out for these Critical Reviews.