Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Batman and Robin by Peter J. Tomasi issue #40

Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason's Batman and Robin and I have been through hell and back. In the beginning, I've witnessed the father and son, Bruce and Damian Wayne, struggle with establishing trust and partnership in the Born to Kill story arc (my all-time favorite New 52 story), which essentially proved to be worth all the drama once I was reassured with the affirmation of the love and affection that grew steadily between them as seen in the first annual. There was also that symbolic dream sequence issue that solidified this title as an emotionally resonant piece. 

As I journeyed on, I saw Damian Wayne survive his first encounter with the Joker but his mother's vengeance proved to be deadlier which tragically cost him his life as examined in the wordless issue of REQUIEM. We also get Alfred's heartbreaking singular scene about it, Batman's uneven stages of grief and his hunt for his son's corpse, until we finally reached the coiling prickle of ascent in Robin Rises, an arc that restored my faith in everything when it finally resurrected Damian Wayne in his rightful position as the Boy Wonder--but not without inheriting accidental superpowers courtesy of the chaos shard. And this is the final stage that Damian has to overcome now that he has returned for good.

One thing that has made Tomasi and Gleason's collaborative work on Batman and Robin for New 52 so heartbreaking, intelligent, meaningful and commendable lies in the strength of its characterizations and development which serve as the driving force behind the stories Bruce and Damian encounter along the way issue after issue. It is proven time and time again that this is foremost a story about father and son at its very core and Tomasi only goes wrong when he starts deviating from this trusted formula which had happened once or twice with the forgettable Terminus and zombie arcs. Those are necessary mistakes, however. 

On the other hand, Gleason as the artist has immensely improved with his visual style and approach. This was realized and highlighted in his depictions of the scenes for Robin Rises as further enhanced by inker and colorist Mick Gray and John Kalisz respectively. I remember remarking on the bland simplicity of his earlier work for B&R which was why I am more than happy to say now that he has since grown and honed his artistry. His visual contributions to Tomasi's narrative helped this series become what it is today for fans like me who remained steadfast and supportive to this dynamic duo's adventures, trials and triumphs across the short years they've been in print since the launch of New 52. This title for me was simply an exercise in beauty and grace that can only be found in the storytelling of the comic book medium. This is the final issue of the series and therefore my last review, and I would just like to say that nothing has been as moving and intense as witnessing Damian Wayne grow up and be a hero worth believing in as depicted tirelessly and with great care and sensitivity as Mr. Tomasi had. 

His writing for this Robin has stirred many powerful emotions from me as well as imparted valuable lessons regarding real strength, compassion and familial love and devotion. I admit I was wary and anxious when Damian was resurrected with powers but I was glad that this only showed how much he has evolved as a person. He may still display cocky tendencies here and there but he's no longer the selfish boy I've met in the beginning; trained by his own mother to be a killing machine and has a complete disregard for his own safety and sanity. This Damian Wayne has proven himself to be his own brand of heroism once he has finally embraced the goodness and light that were always a big part of the reason why his father never stopped believing in him. 

Here are some of my favorite moments for this issue:

In the end, Damian Wayne did lose his super powers (which were drained from him after extensive use) but he has gained something more long-lasting. He wasn't broken up about it at all which showed his maturity. Damian doesn't need to be a Superboy. He's Robin and that's all that matters to him. To end this amazing and glorious series, Gleason gave us this panels reminiscent and nostalgic of the Batman and Robin I grew up loving. I literally squealed as I turned the pages and then cried a little all over again with that subtle moment of Batman glancing at his side (which was a call back to that scene in Requiem), happy to see that his son is truly fighting beside him once more as his partner. It was such a powerful scene for me. 

It was a happily-ever-after I will never trade for anything!

THANK YOU FOR THE GIFT OF BATMAN AND ROBINPeter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason!~


Detective Comics by Manapul & Buccelatto issue #40

CONFESSION TIME: I finished reading this last issue of the Anarky series almost a month ago when it was released but put off writing a review for it because I was quite disappointed of the ending. But it wasn't nearly comparable to my resentment about Manapul and Buccelatto's previous closer for the Icarus arc. There was just something about this last piece that felt dishonest somehow. Much like Icarus, the set pieces were well-placed across the scarlet thread, as any riveting detective story worth looking forward to. The last issue left me breathless in particular.

Now I could never cease complimenting and commending the narrative style of these two people as well as the visual masterpieces they created as a cohesive singularity for every issue. In this sense, Anarky was an impressive accomplishment that made me respect Batman as a crime-solving sleuth in a whole new level. This was a proper noir piece. Manapul and Buccelatto have rekindled my passion for this genre in the comic book medium at that. I will be forever in their debt because of that.

That being said, I think they need to craft their endings a little better. After all, I still want them to be writing more Detective Comics in the future. Objectively speaking, this one is an improvement from the Icarus ending in a lot of respects, but while the latter was a spectacle of the shallow sort, this one was actually pretty bland, a rather ordinary last chapter to an otherwise intriguing premise and heart-pounding climactic ascent. It was also quite misleading. I thought this was an Anarky-centered tale, even when they actually shot and almost killed the teenage boy behind the persona himself (Lonnie Machin) by the second arc, subverting readers' expectations in the process which was clever (if and only if it served a purpose which was not what happened once the score was settled). 

Having a new Anarky for me felt like a crucial turning point because with the invalidation that Machin is the Anarky Batman is currently fighting, this meant that this adversary behind the mask is someone else with different intentions as to why he put on the mask in the first place. That alone left me biting my nails in excitement to uncover his real identity. Once this last installment gave us that, it wasn't as impactful or resonant in any sort of way, most probably because...for some reason there was an unpleasant predictability to how it was resolved. I find that there's a difference between simplicity and mediocrity when it comes to pay-offs for detective stories. A resolution can have the most predictable outcome but the journey leading towards its must be meaningful enough that an emotional investment is fulfilled somehow once the crime or mystery gets solved. 

The three issues leading to this one were constructed with great sensibility and dramatic elements but those things were ultimately insufficient because it turns out the entire thing has nothing to do with Anarky and whatever he stands for whatsoever. What happened was a bait-and-switch scenario which was why I felt cheated as a reader. This display of violence and disorder was all about the Mad Hatter. The one who has donned the Anarky persona is merely someone who has a personal grudge/vengeance to settle with the Hatter which was in itself a believable case BUT HE DIDN'T HAVE TO BE ANARKY to accomplish that. It's literally the definition of "overkill". All the events that happened before this confrontation suddenly doesn't make any sense anymore. Why would this character spend so much time in the earlier installments pretending he was an anarchist challenging the system, invoking citizen riots across Gotham, if he was only after one man? It's infuriating.

As far as cover-ups go, it all seems too much. Why would someone plan such a convoluted and city-wide panic and chaos when he was truly only targeting Mad Hatter? It's ridiculous! And unfair to what the original Anarky was intended for in canon. It's like anyone can put on that mask and do whatever he or she wants with it if they feel like their cause is justified which might have been a satisfying direction if there was any indication that this was what the writing duo was going for.

I suppose my problem lies on the fact that I wish they just created an original villain if this was the role they intended to cast him in. I felt like Anarky as a character in the old comics could have been written better for New 52 and perhaps Lonnie Machin will find his way into that persona soon, if ever. I just felt really cheated that this was about Mad Hatter all along. I suppose congratulations are in order for the biggest and most asshole of red herrings ever created? That said, I do enjoy Manapul and Buccelatto in the writing table and I would still look forward to what they plan next. There is always time for growth and change and these two must really work better with their endgames because this was the second time they left me unsatisfied. I won't stop believing in them but at this point I will also lower my expectations now. I hope to read them again in the next line-up of Detective Comics. They are still the most promising pair in comics for me so far.