Friday, October 31, 2014

Detective Comics by John Layman issue #18

REQUIEM issues for the Bat-titles last year honored the memory of the fallen Boy Wonder, Damian Wayne. This is Layman and Fabok's contribution to that, and it has little to do with that tragedy. Instead, we focus on Batman doing something productive even while he was in the process of grieving his son which was great, considering we were also back on track with the Penguin vs. Emperor Penguin main arc, or rather about to begin that overdue confrontation.

Cobblepot finally realized what his loyal henchman had done and it rocked his world. I don't think he ever anticipated getting stabbed in the back by someone he had been a father figure to in some way. Since I'm watching the show Gotham as well, I can't help but draw parallels between this and the situation there with the character Fish Mooney whom the show's Cobblepot considered a mentor but whom he also betrayed in order to get a larger share of the power. It would be quite poetic to connect these two events in an alternate universe somewhere. Just a thought.

Now if I have to choose sides, I'm betting my money on Oswald Cobblepot and only because he's a historical Bat-villain and I don't think you can replace him that easily. Sure, Oglivy is pretty impressive for making his decisive move against Cobblepot while he's at his lowest point or when his absence was most guaranteed (being dragged to take part on the Joker's Arkham festivities and all), but I don't understand why he wants to rule and have an empire for himself.

As far as I'm concerned, his life as the all-around servant is convenient enough. But then again, he has shown that he has greater ambitions--does he have the brains to pull it off, though? I'm not entirely convinced he knows what he's doing. I'm sure he had these little schemes throughout the years but I'm quite laxed about his overall presence as a villain in the comics so far. I'm sure this will change (hopefully) and he will begin to show us more teeth. The real measure of a villain's threat for me after all is when he or she can subdue, defeat or outsmart the Dark Knight himself. And Oglivy hasn't really done anything that one-ups Batman...yet.

Speaking of Batman: of all the Requiem issues, this is him in his most focused state as far as his bereavement would allow him. I would like to say that this might be after all that 'five stages of grief' business he had with Tomasi in his title, and even Snyder's Clayface storyline in his title--that's how I decided to contextualize it. In any case, kudos to Layman. He didn't feel the need to make his Batman go through the motions of sadness and despair as we would expect. Instead, he stayed true to what Detective Comics is all about: allowing Batman to showcase his skills as a sleuth which also meant giving him small victories in light of his son's demise as a sort of serviceable consolation for what he had lost.

Nevertheless, the issue wasn't that Batman-centered. This really is about the Penguin vs. Penguin arc, and it's about to get even better after that last page revealed that Oglivy has decided to cast the first die against Batsy that could lead to potentially disastrous results. Oh, who am I kidding. I already read and reviewed issue #19 months ago so I know what it was!

You can read my thoughts on that HERE.

RECOMMENDED: 8/10

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Detective Comics by John Layman issue #17

Gotham City attracts the crazies, they say, but it also has the ability to create them and tragically allow them to thrive. Some of them become criminal masterminds who make it into the legendary roster of the rogues' gallery who Batman needs to fight time and time again, while others merely play second fiddle to all that major chaos, yet still have their own unique brand of insanity to give the Dark Knight some exercise. Layman's two-issue story arc explores the heap of these other lone killers out there which was what the Merry Maker and his League of Smiles were supposed to be. Sure, the story may have ended in a predictable twist, but the potential for a compelling narrative and stellar characterization wasn't completely squandered.

This issue still delivered something memorable and one of those was the Merry Maker's visual design. Seriously, he looks very badass! I don't have any fear of clowns but any masks with elongated beaks like he had does give me the chills. It's also the same effect that a gas mask has on me, actually. I think the problem, however, was that his goal as a villain was pretty weak. It was something personal (which was to kill his ex-wife). There was no grander scheme to his work; he merely took advantage of the mentally ill and made them believe they were chosen to do the Joker's work. Granted, the backup story later on revealed his intentions with a better perspective, especially since it included cameo appearances of the Joker and Harley when she was still Dr. Quinzel.

I wasn't really surprised when the Merry Maker was revealed to be a psychiatrist himself who picks out patients he may manipulate to bring out their darkness and inclination for chaos to the fold. It's a very Hannibal Lecter thing to do and though that in itself is not original, it's nice for Layman to touch upon that greedy side of human nature, which is to make profit out of anything, no matter how horrible such things are. People will always find a way to exploit anything that is convenient. The Merry Maker certainly did not shy away from doing so with his League of Smiles (who are actually quite interesting themselves but the issue did not dwell more on their pasts to reveal what pushed them over the edge and maybe Layman didn't because we were never going to see them again anyway, which is a shame). The real lasting creepiness of this issue lies on that backup story. The Joker Effect is very much real and it can infect anyone. Never underestimate the rawest form of chaos and its uncanny ability to get under your skin when you least expect it. It just goes to show that everyone has a darkness but only some a very few special individuals are more eager to claim theirs---and harness it into something potently evil.

RECOMMENDED: 7/10

Detective Comics by John Layman issue #16

"Joker does things to people. A certain type of people. Some of them are just outcasts, looking for something to connect with. Others have something dangerous inside them and the Joker brings it out."

This two-issued story arc about the crazed Joker fanatics in Gotham wrecking havoc is the very first John Layman piece I read for New 52 Detective Comics and I absolutely had fun with it. I have to credit the plot device featuring a mass of Joker protesters roaming the streets to Tony S. Daniel, however, but that never made any sense unless you read how Layman decided to interpret and use it as the narrative that drives his next two issues starting with this one.

In Nothin' but Smiles, Layman dared to tell a Joker story that doesn't include the Clown Prince of Crime at all, but instead focuses on the aftershocks of his over-hyped return; the ripples in the stream as one may call it, that produced a disturbing effect on a great number of individuals who idolized the Joker, and are more than adamant to express just how much through a series of crimes perpetuated by gangs dressed up in any clown-esque uniform. Batman, of course, had to clean up this garbage and he definitely has his work cut out for him. I thought that it was a pretty refreshing take on how influential a magnetic character like the Joker is, regardless of his crazed mania. He certainly has the power to accumulate the most devoted and insane of followers, there's no arguing that. Also, anyone who is terrified of clowns should not read this because Fabok knows how to play up those fears with the way he drew close-ups of several characters in clown make-up and gear. Even I thought it was gruesome enough to pause and...admire. I liked 'em scary clowns, I'm not gonna lie.

I personally never had a problem with the physical terror that clowns seem to have on most people, and that's probably because I've always associated clowns with...the kind of creepy I really can't get enough of. I understand the phobia though, especially when you get stories like this. What is it about clowns that people with mental disorders like the psychos seem to latch onto as a readily available persona for murder and mayhem? Layman explores that quite tangibly for this issue especially when he introduced the League of Smiles and the Merry Maker at the end of the page.

Overall, this was an issue that had enough creeps and upsetting imagery for the faint at heart. Batman apprehending several clowned-up gangs was a fun ride in itself, but the revelation that there are truly messed up individuals out there who embraced their inner Jokers and are ready to kill and enjoy their way in Gotham was a high note to end this issue in. The Merry Maker villain looks badass, by the way! It's becoming rare to come up with a villain for New 52 who looks this damn good. With that atrocious beak-mask reminiscent of what the doctors and medical examines use to wear during the plague in the old times, the Merry Maker is a nightmare in flesh form. As for the backup story, it was once again about Emperor Penguin and his quest to take over everything Oswald Cobblepot has built. I'm not sure if I like this character yet but I certainly don't hate him. I think his motivations and schemes are clear and clever enough but I do hope we get more from him and Cobblepot once Layman has settle the Joker sidestories for the next issue or so.

RECOMMENDED: 8/10

Detective Comics by John Layman issue #15

I don't really understand why this was considered as a Death of the Family tie-in to begin with. The Joker makes a figurative appearance in three panels or so, and just gives the readers the necessary information that Penguin will be going away for a while to participate (forcefully so) in the Joker's deadly Arkham scheme in Batman issue #14. That was my only nitpick for this issue entitled The Dirt Nap which is one of the most entertaining Clayface-centered issues I have read in a long time (the last one has to be Snyder's issues 19-20 in Batman). It also gave us a glimpse of Oglivy's true intentions in the earlier parts of the story until we reach that final page where he more or less flip-flops the fuck out of betrayal and casually appoints himself as Emperor Penguin which serves as a complete mockery of his former boss' namesake. It was a suitable choice; considering he also plans to steal everything Penguin owns in the process. Talk about making the most of a well-timed opportunity for this supposed devoted servant. Thank Loki for the Joker's rampage, right? Oglivy certainly must be thinking so..

Like I said, this was a Clayface story that connects with Poison Ivy from the previous one. Layman consistently writes strong action and dialogue which is why this was yet another scintillating issue. It shows Batman thinking fast in his feet, MORE NERDGASM GADGETRY, and Clayface's pretty touching breakdown at the end when he realizes that Ivy has deceived and used him (which shouldn't be surprising to anyone but it manages to be because of how pitiful Clayface acted in the moment; that was the unexpected twist). Fabok's visual style is really making me giddy because it never feels or looks tiresome. That's mainly because Layman doesn't just write his action scenes for panels that merely depict ass-kicking; he takes time to ensure that Batman is mentally alert as well, deducing his way out of this fight with Clayface until he finds the perfect way to subdue him once he gathered enough data to understand how to counter-effect Ivy's toxin.

Speaking of said enchantress: Oglivy offers an alliance with her as an equal trade for saving her life. She then goes to the apartment where she and Clayface (her Basil) had been staying since their escape from Arkham. This was expounded on yet another Layman-Clarke backup story about Clayface's seduction. It turns out that Ivy has been grooming him for weeks before she broke him out of prison which makes so much more sense and definitely explains why he easily joined her in the previous issue. It has been an ongoing intoxication which Batman thankfully reversed in time and hence Clayface has finally gathered his marbles again which is unfortunate then for Poison Ivy because now he's pissed that his heart (he does have one) has been toyed with in such a malicious way. Still, I feared for Ivy in their confrontation. I still can't help but feel that she did care about Clayface in her own twisted way (or maybe that's just me justifying how fucked-up their partnership was in the same way I do with the Joker and Harley Quinn). In any case, I can't wait to see where this sideline story goes next time!

There really is a lot to be excited about Layman and Fabok's Detective Comics!

RECOMMENDED: 8/10

Detective Comics by John Layman issue #14

Poison Ivy had always been my go-to evil enchantress for as long as I could remember growing up, and I thought there was something clever and symbolic with how she was represented. She was Mother Nature in her vengeful, vicious colors, all twisted steel and sex appeal. The Biblical Eve who led a man to downfall can also be applied to her. Considered as an ecoterrorist, I think her character is more attuned to our times now more than ever, and I'm glad she's being portrayed as a formidable villainess again. I'm aware that she joined Birds of Prey but was kicked out of it because that's just how Ivy rolls, and it's far better to see her committing misguided deeds of ecoterrorism because she's more interesting as a baddie than as a reformed one.
 
This issue entitled Unnatural Selection plays up Poison Ivy in her most traditional villainy. It's been a while since I saw Ivy kiss her victims to submission or death, and we got plenty of that deadly-lip action here. Smooching you to be her obedient bitch is her most recognizable signature move and it pleases me to no end that Layman incorporated that immensely; especially the amusing yet impressive way Batman countered that toxic manipulation in a way only shrewd Batsy can come up with. Fabok has also drawn her so damn slick in the story; all those vines wrapped around her as she dons this black tightsuit with well-placed greenery on her body--she looked just honest-to-Lokiness enticing. But she wasn't just there to look good.
 
Poison Ivy has a plan in place (which we also get in the backup story later on in this issue) and it includes a shakedown of those pesky polluting factories in Gotham, including firstly the one owned by no other than Oswald Cobblepot. I like that it still ties to the major Penguin plot that Layman is carefully crafting. After all, the opening scenes started with the continuation of the cliffhanger from the previous issue, and Penguin has never been more delightfully irritating when he found a way to turn something seriously harmful to his advantage to elevate his newfound status as Gotham's new darling. It reminded me of Tim Burton's movie with Danny DeVito. I'm really enjoying Penguin's role so far, and that Oglivy henchman of his is somewhat a shady character of his own right, isn't he?
 
Everything ties back nicely together once you get to the end of the story, and it had provided enough sensational action, gadgetry and sparkling dialogue exchange between Batsy and Ivy which made it such an easy task for readers to just sit back and enjoy what was offered. My only nitpick for the issue is the references to other ongoing titles' event, particularly with Death of the Family which would be jarring only to a reader who is solely reading Detective Comics (if you are, then you better pick up Snyder and Tomasi while you're at it). Other than that, this has a good narrative flow. The backup story that expands what Ivy has been up to was pretty great too, and once again illustrated by Andy Clarke. It's important to note that the events that Layman's Detective Comics are operating on is during the Joker's return, so Ivy breaking into Arkham to take away a particular patient there might be considered pre-Joker takeover in Snyder's Batman issue #14 whose moments do get mentions here and the next one which is Layman's tie-in contribution. Let's get to that now, shall we? Overall, another strong installment!
 
RECOMMENDED: 8/10

Detective Comics by John Layman issue #13

I gotta be honest: John Layman was the reason I wanted to read Detective Comics for the New 52 in the first place. I've read and reviewed the special issues #19 and #27 earlier this year, as well as the Death of the Family tie-ins #16-#17 included in The Joker: Death of the Family collection. I whined and, embarrassingly enough, kicked and screamed my way through the first twelve issues of this title written by Tony S. Daniel who is honest-to-Loki a spectacular artist who happens to illustrate his stories far more superiorly than telling them. Now we have a new creative team in place and the debut issue for John Layman and artist Jason Fabok was pretty impressive. The tonality and the characterization just felt right in every page.

As I asserted, Detective Comics is supposed to depict Batman as the gadget-savvy nocturnal sleuth who can also kick the shit out of criminal scum while he's at it. John Layman gets this. There was no humdrum moment while I was reading Batsy monologue boxes that truly give the sense that he's analysing and concern about finding logic in the cases before him and not just pretentiously contemplating or brooding over the job which was what Daniel usually does (and which was why I felt like tearing my hair out whenever I was reading an issue of his). I also have to point out the noticeable humor in the issue particularly Batman who seems chattier and able to enjoy himself while crime-fighting; but it wasn't an over-the-top "I'm the goddamn Batman, yeah!" like from the cringe-worthy All-Star by Frank Miller type of shit. No. It was more of a self-aware, sardonic type of enjoyment--and it was such a delight to read and chuckle about. I'm loving my Batsy here. Not too dark, not too light; a perfect compromise in between which actually makes it fun to watch him investigate and sometimes wisecrack to himself.

Issue #13 Duck and Cover was absolutely a blast! The story had a crispness to it that essentially makes it easier to digest. Layman added some lightness to his narrative that just counter-balanced all the supposed darkness Daniel has created in the past issues. You can easily smack your lips after devouring this one, and still feel like you've had something substantial to keep your belly full after finishing it. The Penguin was utilized surprisingly astute here. I haven't cared for Oswald Cobblepot when Daniel wrote him because he wasn't given much material and simply played second string to the entire plot and drama of his stories (WHICH I STILL WISH I CAN FORGET AND NEVER TALK ABOUT ANYMORE). Here we get him to talk about his insecurities in a dignified way (as much as 'dignified' goes for an opportunistic villain goes) and what he plans to do about it. His all-around go-to guy Ogilvy was his sounding board, a faithful servant who indulges and obeys him every step of the way (much like Alfred with Bruce, only a less loving and familial arrangement). Penguin wants not just a legacy or a kingdom from Gotham City: he wants to build an everlasting empire. As far as ambitions go, Penguin always knew how to aim high.

He starts this by trying to push out Bruce Wayne from the spotlight and claim as his own. There's a certain small hilarity to the fact that, in able to accomplish this, Penguin chose to buy off the Martha Wayne Wing and make it his own to show what a generous philanthropist he is. It's the kind of dirty that Penguin plays and it's definitely something Bruce himself didn't expect. That was really amusing to watch unfold--and then that fucking cliffhanger! It made me want to read the next issue already (and, to be honest, I finished reading until issue #18, actually, and will now have five issues ahead of me to review this afternoon so watch out for that).

Layman has also written a short story afterwards which was enjoyable in a degree you don't expect from backup stories in general. Daniel had done this with Two Face and that shite annoyed me a lot. But Layman just KNOWS how to tell a COMPELLING story and this one about small-time crooks stealing in Gotham as one of them discusses his experiences with Batman in his line of work is a testament to his caliber. Artist Andy Clarke illustrated this story and I liked the way the contrasted flashbacks and detailed facial expressions. Yes, Detective Comics has been redeemed. Layman and Fabok are here and their Batman looks and sounds good.

I'm going to have fun again. And I badly need it these days..

RECOMMENDED: 8/10

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Batman by Scott Snyder issue #35

"Look at it. The city will outlive us all. It gets younger. We get older." ~Alfred Pennyworth

The first time I laid my eyes on this cover while I was browsing through the shelves, I was stunned. It took me a few minutes to understand what about it seemed familiar or reminiscent at first glance. I was standing directly in front of it too and I felt a guy beside me, looking at it and then taking a copy as gently as he could as if not to disturb me (which was a courteous gesture, I'll give him that) but I unfortunately disturbed him when I announced (in a louder voice than I should have; I had my earphones on) "BABEL!" And then I looked at him abruptly and he just went wide-eyed for a while, then looked down at his copy and then back at me and replied, "You mean the JLA story?" I just nodded sheepishly. He smiled and nodded back, and it was getting awkward already. And then I did not even take a copy from the shelf AT ALL because I didn't bring my wallet that day and had to go back the very next day to purchase this.

So that's why I minimalize my contact with other people in Comic Odyssey as much as I can; not to be an evasive weirdo or anything...I just know that when I start talking about Batman, I won't stop. I'd probably go on and on and on and the next thing I know--especially if the person is also an avid Batman fan--I'm taking off my clothes, ready to jump in bed with him. MAN, I NEVER SHOULD HAVE SHARED THAT VITAL PIECE OF INFORMATION ON HOW TO SEDUCE ME BEST! SO STRIKETHROUGH!

But I digress. Anyone who follows DC comics and the New 52 titles and read announcements online should know what Scott Snyder's newest story arc for Batman is about so there really is no need for me to bury the lead, right? So I won't. THE JOKER IS COMING BACK. And goddammit, so is Damian Wayne for Peter J. Tomasi's Batman and Robin title. If there is one thing that makes my insides weep other than favorite fictional characters getting killed off, it's probably when they COME BACK. After the events in Death of the Family, I don't really think this development would surprise anyone. It's the fucking Joker after all. I literally just read this issue an hour ago and could not come up with anything coherent to say in a review until I took a nap for fifteen minutes and came back here again online. I don't know how I feel about things anymore. Not that I'm not happy with the developments especially since the Clown Prince of Crime and my favorite Boy Wonder will be returning to grace me with their presence--I just can't deal with how it's going to affect me. Look, Snyder and Tomasi are my favorite writers for New 52 right now. Tomasi's Robin Rises has been stellar so far. Now Snyder is doing his own awesome thing and opened with such a tremendously beguiling and suspenseful issue such as Endgame and I think I'm not ready for any of this to take fruition! The mixture of dread and anticipation makes me want to vomit, and it's getting under my skin now. It's a deliciously terrible and terribly delicious feeling! OKAY?!

This issue, they say, also includes spoilers from Batman Eternal but since I'm only on the 21st issue two days ago, I frankly didn't notice anything which stood out for me. When I do get back to Eternal, something might just click in my head and hopefully it won't really dilute my enjoyment for that series after reading this. Anyway, this was once again a collaborative effort among Snyder, Capullo, Miki and Plascenscia (a team who should have a full-sized poster sitting around together AND I will buy and nail that shit to my door because I fucking love the work they have done in Zero Year). JLA makes an appearance and everything definitely feels like Tower of Babel only with a different twist that leaves my mouth watering and my eyes popping from my sockets. And then there was Tynion's back-up story that lasted eight pages which I really didn't mind but I am, however, interested to know about the FIVE STORIES ON HOW THE JOKER CAME BACK, and the fact that only one of them is true. A multiple-choice concerning the Joker? Please, give me more. I wonder if that's how they're going to do it in the next issues, that Tynion will span a tale from each patient as to how the Joker survived and secretly planned his return to Gotham. That would be fantastic!

I have nothing more to say. I'm going to start reading John Layman's Detective Comics now so I can rinse off the abomination of Daniel's earlier issues from my Bat-palate. I feel almost feverish for what is to come for my two favorite Bat-titles. I might punch a mirror. I can't promise I'll behave, let alone react, normally.

RECOMMENDED: 9/10

Batman by Scott Snyder and Gerry Duggan issue #34

I'm taking a short sabbatical from reading Batman Eternal and this would be the second day of that. There are many parts of that said series that I loved and terribly geeked about, but there are some aspects to it that just didn't jive with me as well. The last issue I read (#21 which was spectacular) ripped me a new hole so I just had to get away and read other Bat-titles in the meantime to recuperate. Yesterday I read issues #8-12 (plus issue zero and annual) of Tony S. Daniel's Detective Comics for New 52 and I was not happy about it. Thankfully, I'll be reading John Layman's issues for that series next which are so much better than what Daniel came up with.

But I have latest releases to catch up to such as this August edition for Scott Snyder's Batman. Ironically enough, this is a script written by Gerry Duggan though Snyder was credited as well. The very first thing that gripped me upon reading this is the art done by Matteo Scalera which is what made this issue such a scary and delightful read all at once. I loved the colors most of all especially the inconspicuous black droplets splashed in panels for every page, giving it a grimy feel as you peruse through. Visually, this was such a thrill to read; it was unmistakably noir in scope. Story-wise, there's enough to it to keep to sustain your interest. This has little to do with the events in Eternal although there was a full-paged illustration consisting of six blue panels that one would consider spoilers from Eternal itself.

Personally, I didn't look at them too much or try to comprehend anything in that page especially Batman's monologue boxes which were vague and evasive to begin with to avoid potentially giving up any significant details or clues for Eternal.

I'm quite glad to see Dr. Leslie Thompson here who is actually a very important person in Bruce's life next to Alfred when it comes to the only people Bruce opens up to and allows to help him deal with his childhood trauma. She didn't really do anything much here, however, but it's just nice to see her and Batman interact and the fact that he took a break to help her out with what was ailing her. In this case, her patients are being targeted and killed off by an unknown perpetrator. The killer in question is a pitiful creature who is actually more disturbing than any costumed villain had to face, most probably because such a man can exist beyond the comic book pages. I won't give away too much because the story mainly revolves around the discovery and apprehension of the killer. What I did like is that Batman does care about small-scale crimes like this, committed by ordinary evil men who are lurking in Gotham, often overlooked because of the noticeable population of 'freaks' such as the Joker, the Riddler, etc. who are more theatrical in their methods and madness. If I read this earlier while enjoying other Bat-titles, I may just dismiss this one as a proper moody standalone issue with striking art, but since I have nothing on my plate right now, I was able to savor its charm and appeal, as brief and simple as it may be. The story holds up on its own despite that it's a solitary plot with no other implications for the more important events in Snyder's run.

I liked it. I enjoyed the atmospheric ghoulishness a lot.

RECOMMENDED: 8/10

[GOTHAM] Episode 6 Review



Once again, I think the show is finally heading in the right directions ever since the last episode where certain chess pieces are beginning to make the crucial moves across the board. This week's installment entitled Spirit of the Goat had yet another unusual villain-of-the-week case which has become a staple now; it was just as cartoonish and audacious as a show like Gotham tends to produce on a weekly basis. So far in the season we had a nerdy tandem of child snatchers, a disgruntled social worker who ties corrupt public servants to a weather balloon to dispose of them, a professional assassin who punctures the eye sockets of his victims, a radical scientist who spread samples of a deadly drug that enhances strength into something superhuman, and now a serial killer who ritualistically kills the first born of any wealthy family of his choosing as a sacrifice to an ancient goat-god. Yup, we had just watched these demented yet creatively murderous individuals go about executing the methods to their madness as Gordon and Bullock are on their tails, pursuing vital clues which eventually solved these cases by the end of each episode.

While this formulaic plot goes on, we also get developments on certain characters such as Oswald Cobblepot and Fish Mooney as their schemes begin to achieve results for the upcoming Falcone vs. Maroni gang war. And even for a show that's pre-Batman, the writers simply can't resist to include a young Bruce Wayne in the mix anyway, as we see him struggle to cope with the tragedy of his parents' murder and figure out the larger role he might have to play in the series.

The biggest criticism of the show so far has been the fact that its writers don't seem to know the best way to utilize the characters or when not to use them at all for a particular story. This often muddles or dilutes the impact of certain plotlines when we have all the characters making their appearances even the ones who don't merit from being there (Selina Kyle and Barbara Keen are often mentioned to be the main offenders of this, and, to a lesser extent, a few of the Bruce Wayne and Alfred scenes). The last episode Viper has finally learned how to incorporate their characters in meaningful interactions that actually help to move the plot forward (particularly the arc concerning the gang war; and that surprising revelation concerning the shady operations of Wayne Enterprises). Meanwhile, Spirit of the Goat finally zeroes in a character for deeper analysis and insight. In this case, we have gotten stellar developments and some personal history for Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue).


It's worth mentioning that the episode was written by Ben Edlund of the CW's Supernatural who has definitely (and hopefully) jump-started future installements like this that would devote a great amount of time developing a character so viewers will understand their motivations better and therefore decide whether or not to root for or sympathize with them. This episode did a terrific job to define who Harvey Bullock was before and why he has become who he is now: we got to see his struggles to overcome the city's greater evils back in his prime, only to give in and employ a more apathetic stance for the sake of self-preservation (and perhaps due to the guilt of endangering his senior partner's life). The notable piece of dialogue said partner has imparted, and has now become the mantra Bullock has learned to live by since that day: "Gotham has only one rule: No heroes" was quite poignant. It enlightened us as to why Bullock tries to dim Gordon's light since the pilot episode to begin with; he wasn't doing it maliciously, he simply knew enough about such school-boy heroics to make an informed decision that doing the right thing doesn't undo the permeating bad things that happen in the city every day, and that there's not enough reason to try harder when everything else is against you. It's no question that Gotham has interesting characters but we mostly only know them on the surface and their desires that are readily apparent in dialogue and action as oppose to deeper self-reflection and interactions with people in their lives who know them better than they would allow themselves be known. Harvey Bullock was allowed the chance to be better understood once we as viewers see him contemplate about a case that has haunted him to this day, his strained yet caring relationship with his former partner Dix, and that fact that we saw him actually solving a case by himself because it was something personal and important for him to do. Sure, the twist about who the spirit of the goat is just as absurd as one might expect but I think what mattered most for this episode is that it was Bullock's journey; that for the first time in a long time he found something to invest his heart in even if it's just a simple matter of catching the individual responsible for murdering rich kids (a therapist with an egotistical drive to prove a point and settle a score with a city that needs a rude awakening which she believed is her obligation).
 
 

On the other hand, we also get more scenes with Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) which is a relief although I'm still not sure what the show plans to do with him in the long run. His transformation to become the Riddler is coming but I have yet to see any strong indication as to when and how that would be possible, given the way he's being written. I would acknowledge that having him work for the law as a forensic analyst is a promising angle; it would be fascinating to know what will be the catalyst which will suddenly make him turn his back from public service to pursue a life of crime that constitutes forever annoying people with his constantly grating riddles. I thought the episode did well enough to give him more scenes to interact with Bullock, Gordon and that fellow co-worker Kristin Kringle, but they felt unusually placed for an episode that was strongly Bullock-centered.

Robin Lord Taylor's Oswald Cobblepot bonds with his mother in his scenes which are creepy because of the Oedipal vibe shared between them. Cobblepot arrives to his mother's place just to let her know that he's very much alive and that there never was a painted whore who led him astray. He then takes a bath while his mother affectionately scrubs him with a loofa as he tells her about his new "friend" Gordon, a cop he believes will help him rise from the ranks. At the end of the episode, he gets a second great entrance when he casually walks in the GCPD precinct just as Gordon and Bullock are about to be whisked away in cuffs for Cobblepot's supposed murder. That ending scene worked really well and ended the episode with a high note. MCU's Allen and Montoya finally will get a new storyline (their insistence to prove Gordon killed Cobblepot is getting on my nerves already), Barbara never has to stay in the dark anymore with this piece of information, and Bullock and Gordon's relationship will get very complicated. I absolutely adored Bullock's reaction the moment Cobblepot appeared. He was instantly pissed at Gordon as if he'd rather be tried for murder than to deal with Falcone and Mooney once those two figured out that Gordon wasn't one of theirs and he disobeyed orders, and now everyone's screwed. Bullock has gotten comfortable of his corrupt cop status after all, and has been getting along with his partner in the belief that Gordon is beginning to see and do things his way.

The only drawback for me with this development is that Gordon may not have to answer to Maroni anymore which I was looking forward to. But we shall see; they could still work a way around it and hopefully find other ways to put Gordon in more distressing situations where his honor will be questioned and his life will be endangered. I'm not going to talk about the Bruce Wayne scenes for this episode (which also included Selina Kyle) because I would rather they didn't appear in this story because they hardly contributed anything and it's not like young Bruce had any progress with his "investigation" project. Also, I can't understand what the hell they want to do with Selina anymore. I just wish the writers will utilize their characters better and only when it's important. It was such a relief that Mooney, Falcone and Maroni didn't have any screen time here because the story demanded it. It would also allow the development from that arc some air to breathe and grow in the background until we get return to it hopefully by next week's installment alongside the Bullock-Gordon-Cobblepot pay-off. I'm betting that Falcone and Mooney will be there, considering they have an axe to grind with Cobblepot, but I don't think Maroni will be eager to get himself implicated just yet. I don't know what's going to happen and it's definitely making me very excited for what's in store.

FINAL VERDICT: 3.75
 
* An insightful character-centered episode that hopefully allowed viewers to appreciate one of its chief players in a much better and meaningful light. The episode also reached an invigorating apex by its last scenes' revelation which promises that the show will embark more exciting developments later on

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Detective Comics Volume 2: Scare Tactics by Tony S. Daniel

To any Batman fan who wishes to read him in the comics medium for the first time ever:

Please don't bother with this and avoid it at all cost.

You are not missing out on anything.

I want you to enjoy your precious reading experiences when it comes to Batman, and Tony S. Daniel's two collected volumes entitled Faces of Death and Scare Tactics will never be a good place for you start. I would only recommend you to check out the first issue which included some information about the Joker. That was a fairly acceptable story. There is also the issue zero for New 52's Detective Comics which happens to be a part of this collection as well, but that's it. I would not waste writing a longer review for this one because I quite frankly had no energy, let alone affection or love, to spare this shite some.

Daniel has proven himself a great artist; his illustrations for these volumes were superb and enchanting; but he certainly hasn't made up for substance or enjoyment which his stories in said volumes sadly often lack. It's a truly wasted opportunity for everyone.

So, new reader looking for a prospective Batman comic book to get started with, I advise you to take your bearings elsewhere and avoid this massacre of good sense. As you embark on your journey to read Batman for the first time, there are plenty of better and more enduring titles to start with than this one.

NOT RECOMMENDED: 1/10

Monday, October 27, 2014

Batman Eternal by Snyder and Tynion issue #21

FUCK. In the name of all that is holy and Loki, WHAT THE FUCK? Just...why? Seriously, WHY? I don't understand...why, why, WHY the fuck would you do this to ME, Batman Eternal? This is...unreal. Just fucking unreal, man. I'm not ready to accept that truth. It's NOT TRUE! It doesn't make sense. Has it been the plan all along, writers? ANSWER ME, Snyder and Tynion and the rest of the staff! But why would you make me care so much? And I CARED A LOT. I may even have fallen in love a little bit...AND THEN YOU BROKE MY HEART. WHY?

If that was the goal all along then congratulations. Color me enraged and disappointed and depressed. Ironically enough and despite my utter dismay and despair expressed above, this has to be one of the phenomenal issues of the series so far, tonality and presentation-wise, and it's almost in the same league as issues 12-14. Jason Fabok returns to illustrate this issue and it couldn't have been more perfect to have his pulpy illustrations occupy the pages. This story is just the set-up for the upcoming painful punchline for the next issue, sure, but it did a wonderfully sadistic job of revealing who are the true villains of this sick, twisted game whose ultimate goal is something NO ONE can fanthom as of yet. Falcone turns out to be just another pawn after all. Issue #10 (which was a fucking horrible mess) gave us a tasty piece of foreshadowing which I completely forgot until now.

AND NOW IT'S HERE. And I want to wish it all away..

I'm sorry but I think I've had enough of Batman Eternal for this week. I've been reading four issues a night and posting reviews of them the very next day. Now here I am at the 21st issue, and I think I need to take a well-deserved break from this series and continue with Tony S. Daniel's volume 2 of Detective Comics and anyone who follows my reviews knows HOW MUCH I HATE THAT PARTICULAR BAT-TITLE and yet I'm choosing to read that tomorrow instead. I'm not rage-quitting Eternal, okay? I still want to find out more about this shift in the story ESPECIALLY NOW AND AFTER ALL THE HEARTBREAK AND BETRAYAL THAT THIS SPECIFIC ISSUE REVEALED, FUCK! But it's just too much for me. I need to balance out the stress this series has put me through. Now Daniel's Detective Comics is not exactly a title that would appease me either, I'm well aware of that, which is why I'm also going to be reading more of the classical novel Jane Eyre alongside it (which I have started reading way before I picked up Eternal in the first place). I just...NEED TO GET AWAY FROM ALL OF THIS. I'm also avoiding the next issues for Grant Morrison's Batman and Robin because Tomasi has yet to give me back my Damian Wayne in New 52 continuity so...I HAVE SO MUCH AVOIDANCE ISSUES RIGHT NOW I CANNOT COPE.

Look, just...take my word for it. This series is getting better even if there are complete duds in between the great issues. But I need to cleanse my Bat-palette now, and I can't think of any other issue to temporarily end with than this one. I'm now going to reveal the earth-shattering moment in this issue that almost made me feel like I was going to have a panic attack, Just move your cursor on the vacant space that follows this sentence while holding down the right button of your mouse to highlight the hidden spoiler: (JASON BARD IS A TURN COAT! We saw how Jim Gordon and Batman eventually learned to trust him. His actions have been nothing but heroic so far. Jason Bard was the only one who stood up against the corruption in GCPD. He had even saved Gotham from a gang war with the help of Vicki Vale. He was characterized as a younger and more resilient version of Jimmy and the best candidate to take his mantle as the brand new commissioner. Everything about him paralleled Jim Gordon and it was moving and splendid to watch this character evolve and become a new friend and ally to Batman. Jason Bard was beguiling, fiercely loyal and morally upright--AND IT WAS ALL FOR SHOW! He was actually working with whoever was behind the scenes, pulling the strings all along! All that character development for nothing! All the emotional investment I allotted for him obliterated with that single revelation THAT NONE OF US SAW COMING). Anyway, I made up my mind. My next post in this blog will be for the episode six review of GOTHAM. I might post something for Snyder's Batman (issues #34 and/or #35) but don't count on it. I'm just...in a very fragile place. Please don't judge. Allow me to recuperate. I'll come back stronger next time.

RECOMMENDED: 9/10

Batman Eternal by Snyder and Tynion issue #20

This was the conclusion issue for Tim Steely's script divided into three events among Batgirl, Red Hood and Batwoman in Brazil; Batman, Bard and Killer Croc in the sewers; and Gordon, the warden and the guards of Blackgate trying to resolve a prison riot between Falcone and Penguin loyalists. Strangely enough, the first two issues of this three-part arc have been more superior and stellar in scope than this actual pay-off. Don't get me wrong. I still think that this one did a great job wrapping up each story neatly with resolutions that made sense--but something about the entire delivery feels weirdly unsatisfying for me. Maybe my expectations were just too high to appease. In any case, we get another fabulous cover by Alex Garner, and Emanuel Simeoni as the artist provided the rest of the art again and his use of dark shading in some edges and panels work really well for the characters and the settings involved. I personally enjoyed his illustrations in the forest. It was lush and foreboding to look at all at once.

I don't feel like going into the resolutions themselves for each story because I quite honestly didn't feel like there was any monumental significance to them. Sure, I can count the mission is Brazil to be a success and therefore a valid win since the Bat-team was able to uncover a sufficient amount of evidence to exonerate Gordon from the manslaughter charges. We also get yet another cutesy moment between Batgirl and Red Hood. Barbara is surprisingly softer now which is great because I wasn't really a big fan of the hothead mode she was in since Eternal started, but I was also suspicious of her sudden fondness for Jason, at least with the way she was physical about it. Hell, she just looks perfectly comfortable hugging him for the second time in the panel below. It's really cute.

I didn't know they were ever chummy. Not that I have a reason to complain. Like I said in my other review, I thought they're quite amazing together and I wouldn't mind if somebody in the writing staff decided that BG and Red Hood should have more scenes together, and possibly have their relationship develop and deepen into something that's more than just 'passing work buddies'. Am I hinting hard enough for a romantic angle or what? Well, excuse me! But just look at them and tell me that you don't see a potential for something more!


There is a significant revelation in the Gordon-Blackgate scenes. However, if you paid close attention to the events from issues 12-14 before, then this wouldn't be an unexpected twist, really. It turns out that Gordon's cellmate, the old man called "Leo" is no other than former mob boss Rex Calabrese, also known as The Lion. It's...there in the name, for Loki's sake! Anyway, that's still a great revelation in itself. Gordon Die-Hard-ing his scenes was sort of amusing to read too. The storyline for Batsy, Bard and Croc was probably the most underwhelming. The conflict with Ten-Eyes was resolved fairly quickly. Bard's sudden arrest of Killer Croc was great though because it once again shows Bard's code as a law enforcer and how he does not hesitate to implement it if he knows that an injustice has happened, but Croc managed to evade capture and Batman---well, he kinnda just stood there and watched Bard and Croc have at it...or not have at it. I don't know, Croc just got away and Bard didn't even get to shoot him. Batman didn't feel like he had to interfere either. That sequence felt weird to me.

The issue ends with an update of Stephanie Brown's whereabouts. It looks like her own story arc is about to move forward and have its overdue spotlight in the later issues. Speaking of story arcs, I failed to mention that we get a Red Robin/Harper Row/Professor Milo update in the previous issue too but that's only because it was so forgettable that I didn't feel I should bother. Hopefully when they make another cameo of that arc, something finally happens than just characters standing around, talking.

RECOMMENDED: 7/10
 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Batman Eternal by Snyder and Tynion issue #19

I've pointed out several times since the fourth issue that I've been having problems with Batgirl's characterization. I just can't accept that Barbara Gordon could be so aggressive and angry which for me are qualities that are antithesis of who I thought she was as a person and a heroine. Sure, we can justify all these strong, violent emotions as a by-product of her father getting wrongfully accused of a crime he didn't commit. But that may only be the catalyst. Thinking more about it now, I think Barbara's constant state of rage actually goes deeper.

Since the New 52 started, she had a lot on her plate from the get-go. The Joker had paralyzed her when he attacked her in her own home, and then he came back years later to kill her. Her brother James Jr. is a psychopath who sold her out to the Joker and had tormented her every chance he got. One of the few men she trusted, Bruce Wayne, withheld certain truths from her and her fellow masked fighters which then fractured their relationship and loyalty to him. And then Damian Wayne died and when she tried to be there for Bruce, he just pushed her away even more. But it didn't stop there. Dick Grayson, a brother-in-arms (and someone she had always connected with the most of all the Robins) had just died. And now her father stands accused and condemned by the very city he loved and protected for decades.

If you contextualized all of these events then Batgirl's volatile state of mind at this point is understandable. Smart, collected and logical as she may be, having to face such deadly encounters with evil men and loved ones who betrayed her would weigh down anyone. Fortunately, this is still Barbara we're talking about and she's still finding productive ways to cope with her anger and grief. Her story arc for Eternal hasn't always been stellar to read but the previous issue and now this one were more than enough to make up for the slow build-up especially since we get a confrontation between her and Jason Todd that was worth waiting for. It will surprise us readers to realize that this issue was more about Red Hood than Batgirl and I was actually pretty happy about it because I'm one of those fans who had a conflicted relationship with Jason most especially in light of the way writers and readers alike keep comparing him to Dick Grayson--and how much he falls short of the original Boy Wonder. Jason's death was quite significant too and his comeback even electrified his highly unpredictable character even more. I can't say I will continue to like Jason after this but I will say that I do find him strangely endearing--and this story has helped me understand why that is.

Before we get back to these two crazy kids, let's talk about the other stuff that happened in this issue. This is a continuation of the three events that happened in the last one with Batgirl, Red Hood and Batwoman in Brazil, Batman, Bard and Killer Croc in the sewers and Gordon in Blackgate. What I love about all these scenes is that the characters are all making action-oriented decisions. In Brazil, Batgirl and Red Hood are locked down in a fight where Batgirl was hypnotized to believe he is the Joker whilst Batwoman busied herself in catching Falsario, a villain who fancies himself as a puppeteer. In the sewers, Bats, Bard and Croc work together unravelling the mysterious abductions of the people Croc has been sheltering (the vagrants and the homeless who considered Croc as their only ally and friend against a city that wishes to be rid of them), and their scenes were enjoyable because of how they actually take time to explain things among themselves and therefore to the readers about what dangers they are facing exactly and what's the bes line of defense. Meanwhile, a prison riot breaks out in Blackgate where two factions of the Falcone and Penguin followers attack each other, and now they seem determined to free their bosses from solitary confinement. True to form, Gordon springs to action and tries to delay them from their goal. So this issue was such a gem to read because everyone is doing something that serves the plot and keeps it moving forward. These three stories were all allowed with an equal amount of pages to evolve which is saying something because that's been one of Eternal's primary failings. I applaud Snyder and Tynion (with Tim Seely writing this one's script) for not making that mistake again. I can only hope they can continue telling stories with such deftness and great sense of direction while zeroing in with character developments along the way.

The cover artist since the last issue was the wonderful Alex Garner. His illustrations should be turned into posters and I would definitely buy them and hang them on my walls. Emanuel Simeoni is the artist for the story itself and I liked the effect of blood spatter in the panels where we see Batgirl hallucinating since they serve to contrast what is real and what is not for the readers. His attention to detail is remarkable as well particularly his choices of panel layout which turn the action sequences (such as the Batgirl-Red Hood fights) into something vibrant and engrossing. 

Now let's go back to Batgirl and Red Hood. I just LOVED the fact that Jason showed some kind of vulnerability here which then touched Batgirl and made her finally stop raging like a bull to acknowledge that someone still cares about her. The page below was particularly touching (and I'm not ashamed to say that I started shipping them in that moment). His petname "BEE GEE" for her should spread like wildfire, by the way! It's sooo cute! It's impressive that Jason's fondest memory of Barbara also includes a demeaning exchange where Barbara actually made a cruel comment about Jason never being able to replace Dick Grayson (a rather timely memory to unearth in that precise moment too during their fight; it makes one think of what Dick would have done if he was still alive and it was up to him to stop Barbara from being eaten away by her rage). And perhaps it doesn't matter what Dick would have done because Jason was the one who saved Barbara from herself and NO ONE SHOULD BELITTLE THAT OR TAKE THAT AWAY FROM JASON TODD. That's why I enjoyed that tiny family moment they had below:



Overall another marvelous issue, especially since it ended with Batman, Croc and Bard about to confront the evil forces hiding in the city's underground sewers. Let's go ahead and shift gears, Eternal, and let's make it rock!

RECOMMENDED: 9/10

Batman Eternal by Snyder and Tynion issue #18

In the last week since I started reading Batman Eternal with a diligence that demands patience and faith, I find that what's probably the most uplifting thing about this series so far is whenever I can finish an issue from its run, sigh contentedly and say, "Now that was a great story" which only happened six times out of seventeen issues. Luckily for me, this would be the seventh time now.

A Night on Earth had a seamless transition among the three events that happened in it. This isn't the first time Eternal employed a three-prong approach in narrative. When done superbly, we get an issue like the third one which remains as one of the strongest issues in the run; and if delivered too simplistic with no forward motion in the plot arcs themselves, we get an recent issue like the last three before this. A Night on Earth closely follows the former but with less gripping action and sequence than issue #3 which worked to its advantage. As I've stated many times, a sprawling saga of a comic book series like Eternal will always benefit more when character interactions within are meaningful, which would the  sustain the readers' emotional investment on what happens to these people as we move decidedly forward with plot progression as oppose to just getting stuck rehashing the same formula that not only becomes anticlimactic but also leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

This issue focused on Gotham City with Batman and Bard teaming up to investigate a case of missing people, only to find themselves navigating the sewers to pursue the lead, as well as an unlikely ally in the Killer Croc who was thankfully portrayed less harsher and more humane in this story. Still in Gotham, we also get the rising tension between Falcone and Penguin in Blackgate where both former crime bosses are residing (who decided this, seriously? It's not the smartest move ever but with Arkham Asylum overrun by Deacon Blackfire, there really is no other option is there?) and these two would probably continue fighting their turf war within this prison instead. In the middle of this development is Jim Gordon, still serving for his crime (the train massacre) and he may be the only one who can interfere before an all-out bloodshed happens behind bars.

Across another country, Batgirl, Batwoman and Red Hood encounter a child slavery organization and are of course more than determined and able to put a stop to it. We get a great interplay among these three, with Barbara and Jason totally having a not-so-subtle sibling rivalry that makes it awkward for an outsider like Batwoman but she was willing to step in to keep things from getting more abrasive between the kids. The last few pages had Jason Todd making a speech to Batwoman about Batgirl's ferocity and dedication and the reason why she's on a different level from the rest of them. Unlike Jason, Dick and especially Bruce, Barbara is not fighting as a masked crusader for some trauma or injustice done to her (which I thought was a significant detail in itself when you think about what she had been through; the girl is no stranger to trauma and injustice). But Red Hood asserts that this is not the primary motivation to why Barbara fights: she fights because she has someone she loves who is counting on her and that's no other than her dad. She fights for the living and not for some ideal. I thought that was an impressive piece of self-reflection for Jason, and also speaks of his respect for her as a fellow crime-fighter. Jason's speech also cuts into panels that show Batman and Gordon which gave the entire sequence a cinematic feel to it, montage-wise.

But Jason was not the only one who gets personal contemplative dialogues like this one. Killer Croc gets to express his rage and frustration for being pegged as a heartless, cannibal monster, and Gordon allows himself to believe that there is some hope for him to change things. To balance out the grimness of the story, we get some humor in the interactions too. The tension and budding working relationship with Batman and Bard is becoming a favorite of mine; it's great to see Batsy learning to trust someone again aside from Gordon to help him battle the crimes and evils of the city. No one is a perfect candidate than Bard. I'm also happy that we explore the humanity of Weyland Jones in Killer Croc. There's just something about humanized monsters that gets to me.

The issue also ends with a brilliant cliffhanger with Batgirl, Red Hood and Batwoman. I can then totally chalk up A Night on Earth as a sort of rising action to the climactic thing that's about to transpire in the next issue. With that, it definitely served its purpose, providing us with savory pacing and character interactions with heart and a lot of weight to them. I'm getting excited again..

RECOMMENDED: 8/10

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Batman Eternal by Snyder and Tynion issue #17

This issue was an improvement from the last one and that's mostly because we focused on Deacon Blackfire, the Spectre and Batwing. We also only had to cover a very brief Red Robin and Harper Row with Professor Milo scene, and some Alfred and Julia interaction as a sidenote of some sort. Also, there's LESS JOKER'S DAUGHTER. That in itself is an immediate winning factor. Still, this wasn't an excellent story that left me wanting for more. In fact, if it wasn't for the Spectre and Batwing's amusing chemistry on page, I wouldn't have cared what happens next to these characters. The issue ends with a cliffhanger and the next instalment is something I'd probably be only interested to read because I want to find out if there will be more Spectre-Batwing moments. They're great together.

I read somewhere that the Spectre is getting a spin-off series from Eternal so it's most probable that the continuation will happen there...which would be a damn shame because I don't think I can read that some time this year...or possibly ever because I prioritize Batman content more than any other DC title. Anyway, I have nothing specific to say about this issue at all except yet another praise for Dennis Nguyen. The gloomy doom effect that his illustrations and choices of color evoke completely surpasses the story being told. I could just look through them in awe and not worry about what I'm supposed to be reading. I won't lie: I often did with this one.

As for those scenes with Red Robin, Harper and Professor Milo; and Alfred with Julia--nothing moves forward in their respective plots. I don't know when the nanobots story arc will pick up its darn pacing. I don't know why I have to read Julia the Fucking Ungrateful whine about her father being a disappointment because he chose a life of servitude to a great man like Bruce Wayne whom Julia barely knew except for the playboy-status she insist on stereotyping him in. I was almost hopeful that Alfred will drag her to the bat-cave and show her what a shithead she has just been to say such harsh things. What the hell does she know? Why is she acting like some hormonal teenage brat in her period? Piss off, Julia. You're almost as worse as the Joker's Daughter. You both have no plot relevance whatsoever except to annoy me. Well at least I didn't get hotheaded Batgirl here with a neutered and helpful Red Hood.

I don't know much about Deacon Blackfire to make a proper assessment if his characterization here was solid, though I have appointed The Cult in my to-read list next year and I know that's mostly about him. I might come back to this again and fill in this review with additional insights once I've finished reading said story. Overall, a nice enough issue but not a story arc for Eternal that I will re-visit again in the future.

RECOMMENDED: 6/10

Batman Eternal by Snyder and Tynion issue #16

For a supposedly promising issue that had Deacon Blackfire, Professor Milo and even Maxie Zeus (whom I had to wiki the shit out of to even make sure of), this one didn't impress me that much. Quite frankly, it was like issue #10 again and the only thing I liked about that one and this one is the fact that I finished them. The relief was so palpable upon completion. I'm going to gloss over the details here in my review although there hasn't been any noteworthy development.

Nguyen as the artist is consistently wonderful, capturing the sinister effect and the claustrophobic atmosphere of Arkham with color combinations that just nailed everything. His illustrations are well-played notes by themselves which could have been enough to salvage whatever messy plot threads I'm forced to entangle as I read on.

I don't like this, and I'm too tired to explain in detail why, so I'll try to be as brief as possible with my grievances. First, we have Professor Milo's introduction which was abrupt although we did see him in one of the previous issues (I don't remember which one anymore and I don't want to look back at my copy).  They should have established some build-up in the last issue, and not way back in the issues. That's the thing so grating about Eternal. When there is no need for a flashback or a 'previously on' for something that should be happening later on, they do it anyway. Now that said plot device is happening, they forget to remind the readers about it in the present. Fuck this. Still, I did like the way Harper sasses up to Tim though and Tim not being able to retort back. Now let's move on.

The Spectre and Batwing getting separated. It was bound to happen because we need to keep sustaining the danger and suspense and it did work, especially when you have Nguyen capably depicting it. I actually enjoy these two characters a lot even when their partnership started in a rather unlikely way (it was basically a blind date that's been going well for both of them). Their budding relationship had been such a delight to read--but then they were forcefully split up for this issue. Batwing ends up having the most terrifying chance encounter with the Joker's Daughter. I say 'terrifying' because I don't want to see JD anywhere near characters I like and care about. She's a piss-poor Harley Quinn knock-off without the dazzling humor and personality. And I want to kill her. Kudos to Batwing for kind of breaking the fourth wall with his snarky commentary directed towards the Joker's Daughter. It seems that the writers themselves are aware that no one likes JD so they poke fun at insulting her irrelevance and mediocre appeal. I'd be happier if Batwing rips her apart later on, but that's just me being resentful.

Another thing I was quite disappointed with was that scene Bard had with Vicki Vale. I've known all along something more personal is going to transpire from their professional relationship. Here we are given some crumb about the romantic possibility between them. The writers dangled it so blatantly and yet did not follow up on it in the end. Is it really so hard to make Vicki admit that she wants to date Bard and vice-versa? Why are they suddenly so suspicious of each other? Simple sexual tension? That's still kind of odd. I would think that the trust they shared during their investigation with Falcone and Penguin would strengthen their mutual bond (and the attraction which had been there since their first meeting) but that's not what happened at all. I would think that's a natural progression between two single people who are clearly interested in each other, but what would I know, right? I'm not writing Batman Eternal and it's not as if I would ever want that privilege.

We'll be getting more of Blackfire and Professsor Milo next issue. Hopefully, the plot moves forward, Joker's Daughter chokes in her own blood and vomit, the Spectre and Batwing get reunited and Tim and Harper start liking each other enough to sustain a believable character interaction. And for god's sake, just go out on one date, Vicki and Bard. Jesus fuck.

RECOMMENDED: 5/10

Batman Eternal by Snyder and Tynion issue #15

Artist Dennis Nguyen makes a return to illustrate the next three issues of Eternal and I felt the need to begin my review with this announcement because I have to admit that said issues have been a visual adventure for me even if the story department is lacking in some places yet again. After the main arc in Gotham City pertaining to the Falcone-Penguin gang war has been resolved in the previous issue, we now have to move on to the minor arcs that have been scattered throughout the Eternal run namely (1) the supernatural story with the Spectre and Batwing; (2) the unlikely tandem of Red Robin and Harper Row vs. nanobots; (3) and Batgirl's pursuit of clearing her father's name as Red Hood tags along.

I've expressed how much I've been having problems with the cohesiveness and overall structure of this series since I started reading and I would like to state from here on out that the writers never should have chosen to bombard us with so many story arcs happening all at once, and then place them alongside each other in a single issue (a mistake committed several times) which just overcrowded the narrative, weighing the elements down. But it already happened and now the writing itself and the stories suffered, and readers just need to adjust to the confounding and uneven quality of Batman Eternal.

We should have just focused on the gang war in Gotham City first, and wait for that arc to resolve before we head on with the next plots. Issue #2 showcased the five story arcs we have to follow in Eternal and the result of which was a mess. I just re-read that issue again after I finish issue #14 and the flaws became even more apparent the second time around. But fuck it, dudes. Not every collaborative project is perfect and we can always take comfort in the fact that the last three issues (#12, #13 and #14) were superbly written, resolving the Falcone-Penguin and GCPD story arc in a satisfactory way.

I'll discuss the three story arcs enclosed in this issue now and give their merits so far because overall this issue was pretty great. Not exactly excellent, but it wasn't so awful than expected. I have a few nitpicks as always. So here we go:

  • The paranormal storyline with Batwing and the Spectre exploring the dark corner of Arkham Asylum was probably the one that I can follow and enjoy the most in this issue. There's a build-up of suspense and snappy dialogue going back and forth between the two characters. Nguyen's artwork was amazing, giving each panel in the page an unforgettably haunting presence. I'm perfectly fine when a Batman story becomes a cosmic horror as long as it's played straight which this one was. The dichotomy between the voice of the scientific and the enigma of the mystical is formed in the roles of Batwing and the Spectre respectively. Batwing is the one who questions the events unfolding and not readily accepting them while the Spectre was patient enough to help him figure things out. Their camaraderie was organic and therefore eases the readers into caring what happens to them and the discoveries they may stumble upon. I can say that their arc is easily the strongest of the three as featured here so far.

  • Red Robin and Harper Row's puzzling adventure is something that's so awkwardly executed that I try not to wince too much while reading. I understand why Harper wants to come along (to find a way to save her brother) and why Tim is dismissive of her (either because he's just not comfortable having another headstrong teenager that kind of reminds him of himself when he was a novice; or he's just not sure how to normally interact with a person of the opposite sex who is not a teen titan/superhero). I just feel like it's really taking them too long to get past their hang-ups. If we're going to see more of them in the next instalments, meaningful interactions must occur. Just look at Batwing and the Spectre. In their own way, they're both getting to know the other and learning to establish some sort of working trust between them. I guess I shouldn't make comparisons between fully grown men who are more used to professional interactions and two teenagers (is Tim still a teen or near his twenties now? I can't be sure because I don't really follow him in his own titles) who are obviously uncomfortable with social interactions in general, considering they're both introverted and too individualistic for their own good sometimes. I suppose I just need to wait it out. I just hope it gets better later on.

  • Batgirl and Red Hood working together is...pretty bland. At this point I'm just getting tired of Babs running around, interrogating people violently and NOT TALKING TO HER FATHER OR STAYING BY HIS SIDE IN HIS TIME OF NEED. Seriously, Barbara. You'd be helping more as yourself than as Batgirl. Am I the only one who sees that? I understand the need to portray a heroine be all kick-ass because it makes for great action and drama. Also, females in comics have come a long way and need to be shown throwing a punch and solving crimes by themselves. But it just doesn't work for Batgirl here in this story. It just doesn't feel real or genuine in any way for her to be so abrasive like this all in the name of finding evidence to disprove her father's crime. Her motivation since issue #4 gets diluted the further we get to her arc. I find myself caring less which is odd because I have to care about Barbara. But, just like with Batman and Red Hood, she's not allowing any of us to understand what she's going through. I don't know what other direction Batgirl is going after this issue and I frankly don't want to know. If it's going to be the same shit again, then fuck it. And can Red Hood do something Jason-Todd and not just tag along with Babs like he's some neutered guard dog?

We get something about Bard and Batman in Gotham for this issue which I believe we could have done away with. They had this fantastic moment of tension and shock in the previous issue when Batman realized that Jason Bard is the man who may resemble Jim Gordon in a lot of ways but is also most definitely a hardened version who won't be afraid to bend the rules further than Jimmy ever did. I think it was a bad move to make them interact so soon after that earth-shattering quiet moment. I would have preferred that Batman stayed away from Bard because of the discomfort he felt after the rooftop scene. It would make more sense for Batsy to just lurk around and watch Bard work, gauging his reactions, observing him in action. So this scene they have in this issue had no impact and was so forgettable. Let's just end this review before such minor mistakes annoy me more. Like I said, this issue wasn't that bad. The Arkham storyline with Batwing and the Spectre pretty much saves it from being a bore.

RECOMMENDED: 6/10