Sunday, September 27, 2015

Batman by Scott Snyder issue #44

Happy #BatmanDay, everyone! If you have any kind of ritual in place that you do to celebrate our favorite avenging knight on his blessed day, then please feel free to share that information with me in the comments section of this post. Personally, I have a folder in my hard drive dedicated to all things Batman and I would re-watch documentaries or select BTAS episodes to commemorate him. After all, I'm only in my Bat-blog every now and then just to review the releases for three ongoing Bat-titles, and I've been on a steady diet of X-Men since the beginning of this year. I'm frankly relieved that there's a reason for me to come back to my Bat-blog each time I find myself in need for a break from the clusteruckness that is X-Men and it just so happened that I'm getting a little sick of Brian Michael Bendis' All-New X-Men. So, reading new issues for Bat-titles has become a needed dose of sanity again. I'm more than happy to comply.

My very initial thought once I saw this graceful cover illustration was Snyder's previous work in pre-New 52, which was in Detective Comics with Dick Grayson as Batman in that memorable dark tale entitled The Black Mirror which has to be one of my favorite Batman stories collected in a trade paperback. I quickly glanced at the list of names in the credits and nodded appreciatively as I saw the artist Jock in it because that meant I was right to make that comparison. Jock (real name Mark Simpson) originally worked on The Black Mirror himself for several of its issues, giving that particular tale an eerie, haunted look that may not be as polished as most modern visuals in the roster of most comics title, but is nevertheless creates an atmosphere of dread when you turn the page. His depictions for issue #44 of Snyder's Batman is no exception. I can't get enough of those delicately drawn bats!

Co-written with Brian Azzarello, Snyder's installment for this month took us back from post-Zero Year timeline where Batman is adjusting to the stress of lone vigilantism as crooks and supervillains began coming out of the woodwork to make life even crazier for Gotham City. The story started with the murder of a fifteen-year-old boy from the Narrows named Peter Duggio who entered a life of crime because he wanted to take back the building where he and his father and brother used to live which was now used as a rendezvous base of operations by the Four Five gang operating in the Narrows. He sought the aid of Oswald Cobblepot who is a rising star in the criminal enterprise, but in a typical Penguin fashion, he backstabs the boy and instead gives away the place completely to the gang. Batman suspects him of murder but Penguin profusely denies it, claiming that he had never killed Peter and accusing him so meant that Batman knew little of the way things work in Gotham if he believed that. What follows after is a a very unexpected emotional story focusing on this boy Peter and his struggle to push back against the insurmountable evil surrounding his life. It was simply rendered in a very stark yet humble prose, emphasizing that there are certain battles of the human spirit that even Batman himself can't defeat. This was wonderfully explored in A Simple Case.

Now I had a complicated one-off relationship with Brian Azzarello as a writer, mostly because the first time I ever read him in comics was during his work for the Before Watchmen series where he handled the writing for the Comedian and Rorschach, two of my most favorite characters in the roster. And, personally, he handled both arcs poorly, more so with the Rorschach one (the Comedian's story eventually got a little better by the last two issues). Since then, I became very lukeward towards him as a writer based solely on that, but since I read BW almost four years ago now, I've completely forgotten about holding a petty grudge against this writer so I was perfectly fine reading this Snyder issue where I believe Azzarello took a more leading role in the narrative. The story he produced was both straightforward and opaque with deceptively bold strokes at first that slowly revealed an intimate portrait about the ordinary lives of Gotham citizens who live in terror and despair and what that desperation could push them into doing such as things that they will forever regret or, worse, even result in their demise. Batman coming to terms that he doesn't always have to function as the Dark Knight to make a difference in his city is a rather uplifting message once this tale ended. 

Reading Bruce Wayne as Batman has been nostalgic too because I do miss Bruce under that cowl and seeing him relating to other human beings such as those delinquents on the streets was so moving that I could only stare at that last page in disbelief. It was a nice touch. Much like everyone else, I suppose I was hoping we get the origin story of Mr. Bloom for this issue and though he made that really creepy appearance midway, I was glad we didn't focus on him on this story at all. It also adds a new layer of mystery to his identity after reading this. It would seem he has been around Gotham after Zero Year and has bid his time in the shadows, waiting for the moment to strike. The illustrations for this issue, especially the way Batman was drawn, were astounding and spectacular to peruse! There are so many angles and shapes in Batman here that were unique and fun to look at. He looked like a smudge on paper in some parts and an overpowering inky presence on others. It's visually distracting in the best way possible.

The composition of the colors (lots of black and grays with only select pages in color) was so delicately balanced and atmospheric that I could stare at some of drawings for minutes, lost and enthralled. I like the pages that had the newspaper clippings as interruptions in the flow of an otherwise linear narrative. That style really pulled me into the pages since I've always paid close attention to newspaper articles myself growing up and back when I would watch my father from across the table read his paper during breakfast and I would try to read along with him from the other side. Seeing that here in this issue reminded me of that childhood memory in such a pleasant yet uncomfortable way as well. I'm ending this review with my favorite pages:


Saturday, September 26, 2015

Robin: Son of Batman by Patrick Gleason issue #4

DC's Green Latern officially turned seventy-five years old this year, and my heartfelt kudos goes to him and the beautiful and dignified men who put on that hallowed ring and stood up for the principles and ideals it represented. I don't know why I've decided to squeeze in those words of congrats here in my review for Patrick Gleason's ongoing epic Robin: Son of Batman, but I did anyway because it felt right in the moment. I have no regrets.

The same thing cannot be said for Damian Wayne, however. Still marred by the misdeeds and atrocities he committed during his last Year of Blood, Damian is still on a spiritual and brutal journey to rectify his mistakes. Accompanying him in this mission is Goliath, a so-not-a-Man-Bat pet and sidekick, and Nobody's daughter Maya who started out seeking vengeance on her late father's behalf by trying to kill his murderer (read: Damian himself) but unexpectedly chose to let go of the grudge and help out said father-murderer. The situation is odd enough but Maya has shown loyalty and stubbornness, two qualities that binds her to Damian because he possesses the very same traits. 

Theirs is proving to be the start of a bizarre camaraderie that may yield more positive results than anticipated. I certainly enjoyed the way these three characters (yes, I'm including Goliath) seem to care about each other while trying to accomplish the mission they were set out to complete. Said mission was mostly about returning artifacts to their rightful places as a peace offering to atone for Damian's mindlessly and ferociously ransacking sacred places he left in ruins back when he was just a boy engineered to become a bloodthirsty ruler of an empire soaked in deaths and destruction. Not anymore, of course, because Damian demonstrates in this series that he wants to grow up differently from what his grandfather and mother wanted him to be back then; a far-cry from the sadistic and cold-blooded assassin he was trained to be. So, for this issue, we see Damian, Maya and Goliath taking a trip to Alexandria, one of the many places Damian originally had his Year of Blood trials. He stole three canopic jars after raiding tombs within the eerie underground halls and cellars of what used to be the intellectual central of the old world.

Damian actually takes the time to explain the significance of the place which made me wonder if there is more to Alexandria's secret corners than Damian is leading us on. He was surprisingly chatty about it and originally I thought Gleason was simply making a metaphorical comparison between Damian and Alexander the Great which wouldn't be an unlikely theory, seeing as both can be considered as bright and passionate pioneers who are on a quest to overcome the limitations imposed on their respective persons, but I feel like there's more to that comparison as well. I'm not completely sure but I did enjoy Damian opening up more to Maya even if the conversation mostly consisted of his insights regarding Alexandria. It felt like this was his way of attempting to communicate his private thoughts towards someone he wants to trust, so I appreciated the light banter in between as well because it reinforces the idea that perhaps Damian and Maya could be great partners as long as they're open and honest with each other's shortcomings and darkest inclinations. Goliath tagging along, being a supportive badass, is another treat.

The crowning moment of awesome for this issue arrived when Deathstroke (Slade Wilson) arrives to the party, incapacitating Maya and attacking Goliath quite unfairly just to hurt Maya's feelings because she has obviously learned to care for the adorable creature. In what can only be described as a phenomenal sequence, we get a really intense action-oriented pages featuring the fight between Damian and Slade. Here are my favorite panels. At this point I don't need to convince you that Gleason is amazing:

In a rather humorously anticlimactic moment, Damian deduced that Slade is not here to kill Maya or Damian himself. but rather to acquire financial assets to rebuild his murder enterprise, I guess, and to which Damian offered a hefty amount of contribution if Slade vows to stay away from Maya from this day forward. And, what do you know, Deathstroke took him up on that offer and he turned out to be such a fucking sellout! He got five million out of it while he offered some helpful advice to Maya, claiming that "A job is a job but blood is blood" in regards to her father's murder. Apparently, Slade doesn't know Damian killed Ducard which was...odd? I wonder how Maya will take Slade's words to heart though...would she later come to a realization that she shouldn't be helping Damian at all and once again revisit the idea of making him pay for her father's death? It's highly likely and it would be a tad heartbreaking for me, seeing as I'm enjoying the trinity of Damian, Maya and Goliath at last and I'd hate to see put an end to their wacky adventures. This issue ends with the three amigos stumbling upon a Lazarus pit during their escape, and the promise of a mother-son reunion which will make things more awkward indeed. And I can hardly wait to see how Damian will react upon discovering that mommy dearest is still alive and kicking.


Detective Comics by Buccelatto issue #44

To answer the elephant smashing its way into the room: NO. Hell to Leslie Knope, I can honestly say that it also never crossed my mind that there was ever a need for Joker Robot to make any appearance at all but Detective Comics disagreed with me about this--and that ballsy and campy response in the face of logical storytelling simultaneously makes me hate what I just read and enjoy it all at once. I can't for the life of me believed that none of the characters in this issue just took a step back to re-asses the absurdity of their situation so they can recalibrate a better response; something akin along the lines of flat-out just asking a higher power, "Jesus fuck, are we in a comic book?" because that kind of biting self-awareness and breaking-the-fourth-wall snideness would be feel right at home next to whatever the goddamn shit just happened in Buccelatto's piece right now. The only saving grace from this is that it's thankfully over. I close this comic book issue and immediately forgot about it until I had to write a review and revisit the stupidity of it all over again.

Now, to be fair, when this arc first started, it felt like a promising premise for some gritty crime drama with lots of intrigue and deception as the story's meat and bones, but then it slowly devolved into this weird, theatrical farce that I think even the writer themselves know is utter shite but decided to go along with, possibly due to creative restrictions. However, I may just be theorizing blindly about that but it's only because I'd like to give more credit to the combined talents of Manapul and Buccelatto, so I simply chose to believe that this wasn't near their best effort. I've seen it firsthand in Icarus sans the concluding issue. Anarky was also strong follow-up, but whatever the fuck this was with the fucking robots and goddamn Joker's Daughter part of the plot--it's an awful mumbo jumbo that is so easy to criticize and dismiss as a prank all in itself.

Harvey Bullock's share of the story could have worked so much more riveting as a standalone piece; the man is proving to be a compelling character of his own right since Manapul and Buccelatto took the mantel for Detective Comics and started including him in more assertive and integral roles into the cases they were weaving. Since Anarky, Bullock has been engrossing to see on page especially his strained relationship with the previous Batman and now with the new Batman who happens to be his long-time friend and colleague, Gordon. I would've loved to have more of an intimate exploration to this relationship now that the dynamics between them have drastically changed. That could have been something worth my time.

But instead of that, we got Bullock's one-off romance with the newbie Nancy Yip whose questionable moral compass is pretty damn ridiculous that I don't buy her turncloaking and then regretting her actions later in just a span of two measly issues or so. Even more unbelievable enough is Bullock's insistence to see the good in her, justifying that she deserves a second chance so he helped her fake her death so she can start over. If there is any character who isn't worthy of forgiveness in this issue, it's Yip. She basically just explains to Stefan Falcone that the reason she became crooked was because it was the only option and her pure survival instinct kicked in. She sounded as if she didn't even bother to try fighting the corruption and the temptation; the girl simply rolled over and took the pile of shit that collapsed on her. It's so unrealistic and it made her character so heinous because her amoral stance was contradictory to the part of her character that claimed to be in love with Bullock. She was just so inconsistent! I was glad to be rid of her when this story ended. I feel like getting a shower just to scrub away her stink.

Speaking of grimy filth you can never wash off, my favorite part of this comic book had to be the confrontation between Jim Gordon, still clad in his BatRoboBunny armor, and Joker's Daughter who has been piloting the Joker Robot ever since the La Muerto dudes stole the nuclear power source last issue so rhat JD can have her very own cheesy and stupid machine in the game because she's a cunt and I swear to god, DC, if you incorporate her character into any Bat-story one more time, I will go commit my own murder spree--a hyperbole, sure, but I hope the gravitas of my sentiment were perfectly understood. This is why I was so relieved and a tad bit sadistically overjoyed when Jim smacks the bitch down and succinctly summarized everyone's thoughts about JD as a useless waste of space that doesn't even deserve to be deemed as a character. Gotham City is more of a character than this asshole. Isn't it just so damn cathartic to see Jim humiliate her this way. Stop being a hypocrite and agree with me!

Joker's Daughter can go ahead and eat a rotten dick and nobody will mourn her

It's sad to come to terms with this but I will always remember that artist-writer power duo Francis Manapul and Brian Bucelatto had a great run in Detective Comics while it lasted; it's just a little tragic that this was their last contribution to the title, though. I grieve them profusely but I was also elated to find out that Peter J. Tomasi (former writer for New 52 Batman and Robin) will replace them from here on, along with artist Marcio Takara whose illustrations I'm very excited to see. I've heard great stuff about him and now my expectations are set. Overall, this bizarre and ridiculously uneven storyline at least managed to have great moments in between, particularly the parts with Bullock and Stefano Falcone's plan to corrupt every GCPD officer so they can all be in his payroll and those who won't comply will be executed. I liked that part of the narrative enough; the rest with BatRoboBunny (RoboBatBunny? Goddammit, I could never get it right...) and Joker Robot is now forever suppressed in the depths of my memory and will hopefully never resurface in my waking life.


Saturday, September 5, 2015

Batman by Scott Snyder issue #43

At this point in time, writer Scott Snyder has been making quite a gamble with his stories for this title since Endgame started and reached a conclusion earlier this year. Fans among themselves could endlessly debate which ones are a hit, and which ones are a miss, and that's the beauty of Snyder's writing and creative decisions for a flagship title that is dear to the comic book fandom. Personally, I always put nothing but my faith forward whenever I read a Snyder-Batman story. I could only recall one or two instances that he had disappointed me, and even those weren't enough to steer me away from this title. 

After all, Batman is masterful in its overall narrative and visual composition, more so since Zero Year.

This third installment of Superheavy offered us a controversial truth about what happened to Bruce Wayne after his final battle with the Joker. He was supposed to be dead and, as Snyder revealed in this issue, he very much is; his physical body may be still intact but his mind, his heart, his soul were essentially...rewritten. I'm aware that this has been pretty hard to process for a lot of Bat-fans after reading. Some reviews of online Bat-fansites were opposed to this concept and they are rightfully justified. Personally, even as I give my own opinion about it, I am not entirely sure how I feel about this change either. I wouldn't say I hated it nor would I say I'm crazy about it. I suppose my neutrality is inevitable because I don't feel like judging something in a writing that hasn't completely played out yet. So, I'm waiting exactly for that. It is an unconventional direction but I'm eager to follow Snyder through it. I'm very excited about it, actually. So let's break down this issue before I start discussing the very big spoiler in the story, starting with the visuals.

Artist Greg Capullo, Inker Danny Miki, and colorist FCO Plascencia are the dream team and they always produce quality illustrations that are so unbelievably and inconceivably beautiful at times, and this issue featured some of the most fantastic artworks I have seen in superhero comics. The medium is a visual one after all and artists like these three are not afraid to challenge the conventional approach of illustrating scenes in a story, and that is why every time Batman comes out, I anticipate it because of the inarguable art pieces it produces on page, though that's not to say the content of the writing is not considered into my appreciation. With Snyder and Capullo, their talents are intrinsically woven together by now, like words and melody in a perfect musical composition. A great example of the visual dream team is this singular page many fans are talking about and it's certainly so captivating in a lot of levels:

Now let's move on to the story. The issue opens with Gordon approaching Bruce Wayne on his workplace. The idea seems to be that Gordon is even aware that Bruce Wayne is Batman, and that's not really a shocker to me even though it was never firmly established how he figured it out here in Snyder's series. Again, it's a development that I didn't mind happening because I can see it being very plausible, considering Gordon's instincts and relationships with Bruce and Batman respectively that Snyder had written. In any case, Gordon sought out Bruce because he wanted his help. He explained that there is a new player in town who has been supplying dangerous amounts of drugs to the people of Gotham. So far, the only thing we know about him is that he's called "Mr. Bloom" (the character creepily depicted in this issue's cover) who passes around these "seeds" with a sunflower symbol in them:

At this point, Bruce has a steady job at what seems to be an outreach for troubled teens, and he love working there so he told Gordon that he doesn't know how to help him, and that he has mistaken him for somebody else. And Gordon really did, but he had no idea just how wrong he was about this Bruce Wayne he is now speaking to. Outside, Clark Kent and Alfred are in a car and Kent was watching the conversation through his Superman vision. He agrees that the man he is seeing--who may look like Bruce Wayne--is not Bruce. After that, we get hefty explanations courtesy of Alfred about what happened after Batman's confrontation with the Joker. The panels had a fluid transition between the flashbacks and the present where Alfred and Kent are having a conversation. And it's so heartbreaking and beautiful to read Alfred's sentiments. If you are a Batman fan, it's undeniable that you will be moved by the words. They reveal so much about Alfred's wish for Bruce's happiness no matter the cost:

Kent refused to accept the idea of Bruce Wayne finally having a shot of getting a normal life. But Alfred was adamant this idyllic scenario stayed that way and he is not afraid to threaten Kent with a kryptonite and then he also revealed the impracticality of putting this new Bruce Wayne under the cowl. It's honestly a little disturbing how passionate Alfred is about this:

Finally, we get a great tie-in in reference to that anniversary story Snyder wrote in Detective Comics #27 which is a concept that has intrigued me to no end so I was only glad that Snyder is now placing that idea within the continuity of his Batman run. Entitled Twenty-Seven, we see a future a hundred years from now, where Bruce Wayne is long dead but, as Batman, he got cloned perfectly, so a clone of him aged twenty-seven (when he first started his crime-fighting and vigilante work) will emerge time and time again to ensure that Gotham will always have its Dark Knight for many generations to come. Alfred revealed the genius invention that has made this all possible, explaining to Kent and the readers that Batman is an un-killable idea after all, and even though the real Bruce Wayne is no longer who he was, there is a version of him that will live on and continue the mission:'s all been very difficult to swallow this information overload, isn't it? Most particularly if you're hang up on the idea of the present Bruce Wayne not just forgetting everything--but being rewritten as an entirely different man altogether. One would argue he is not the Bruce Wayne we loved and root for throughout the course of knowing him and supporting him in his noble crusade, and that meant him getting a small piece of compensation and happiness with a new identity should not matter to us BECAUSE WHO THE HELL IS HE IF NOT BRUCE WAYNE WHOM WE HAVE A GREAT EMOTIONAL INVESTMENT WITH? Perhaps that is the case because technically speaking, the young boy who lost his parents to a tragic murder and who grew up to be a man who forged his path to become Batman is truly and finally dead. The Bruce Wayne we see now in the present is not burdened with that rage and motivation, and he has also lost all his years of hard work in training to become the symbol of justice we have all admired. So, Snyder offered fans a compromise by ensuring that Batman in the futures to come will still be around...but it's a clone of the real Bruce Wayne so, again, we shouldn't care. But personally, I DO. I still care about all of this. I still love Bruce Wayne even if he is no longer the same person. I still believe Batman couldn't die and even when he did for that brief moment in the cave trapped with his arch-nemesis, Batman is unending because he is an idea that lives because our faith in him gives him power and everlasting life. Bruce Wayne is not the same person now and perhaps ever again, but BATMAN WILL ALWAYS BE BATMAN.

That's why I'm not bothered that Bruce Wayne came back as a different person because as a mortal man of flesh and bone, Bruce's calvary and tragedy has to end at some point. He can't be suffering forever and going through the cycle of violence, guilt and anger just because we want him to because that's mainly who he is. But we're the ones who defined him in that role, claiming that through his darkest moment turning him into the tortured hero we like seeing defeat the odds time and time again was an inspiring journey. WELL, MAYBE IT ISN'T. That's what Snyder wants us to think about by writing this, I believe. Don't we think it's time to let go of the oppressive notion that Bruce must always remain isolated and unloved just so he can be Batman, even if that also entails that we can't ever have the boy and the man who breathed life into Batman putting on that cowl and fighting yet again for another terrible night? Personally, I maintain the opinion that the idea that both Bruce and Batman have now been thankfully severed from their intimate and most grueling connection and purpose is not something to be upset about.

But if you still are, that's fine. I would hope it wouldn't discourage you to stop reading Synder's series because I think this is a meaningful turning-point in the seventy-five years of Batman's run as a superhero in the comics medium. Snyder has been de-constructing what we know about his tale and why we identify with it so much, and the idea of how that identification affects our appreciation for him as a character, as well as forms our opinions concerning moral relativism and values like strength of will and pursuit of justice. Batman is a story that is timeless and universal because it affirms the idea that even the darkest and coldest moments in a person's life can become the brightest and lead to the most inspiring journey to self-discovery and, yes, immortality. So, ask yourself now: why are you a Batman fan? Why are those your reasons to be a Batman fan? 

If you want to explore these feelings more and to really tap into the depths of this unique obsession and devotion of ours to a fictional character who might have touched something in us that we have yet to fully recognize and name, then let us keep reading Snyder's series. I know I would. I never started looking for answers when I read his stories but now they are certainly making me ask questions. And that I think is the beauty of a writing that challenges both mind and heart.


Friday, September 4, 2015

Robin: Son of Batman by Patrick Gleason issue #3

I have exhausted all the possible ways I can count how much I love Damian Wayne at this point so I think I need to cut back from my raging torpedo of affections for this character every time I write my reviews for Patrick Gleason's ongoing Robin: Son of Batman which is proving to be a very engrossing title of its own right even after only three issues in. That being said, this installment was slower than the action-filled fun ride that were the first two of the roster. But I'll fangirl a bit here and there because it's still my Robin after all. Before doing that, let me just address this elephant in the room.

I think it's become obvious by now that this title is disconnected from the continuity happening in Gotham City with Gordon as the new Batman. It might even be set during the grieving period of Bruce Wayne's 'death' before somebody else put the cowl. Gleason never really addressed the specific timeline his story arc is placed in and that works well enough. In my mind, this is set after Snyder's Endgame during a tender time when Damian is grieving his father; yet he is also doing it by honoring his memory in the best way possible: making amends for the cold-blooded killer that he was when he used to be the heir to the Al Ghul empire of assassins and cuthroats. This series then can be seen a redemption story. I certainly to choose to see it that way.

Gleason on story and pencils, Gray on inks and Kalisz on colors once again worked together for the beautiful visual palette of this third installment of Year of Blood. What I love about this series is that it definitely feels like the proper spin-off for Peter J. Tomasi's recently concluded Batman and Robin if we're strictly looking at the illustrations and overall composition and texture of the panels and layout. The writing itself has taken a brave step forward to capture the same emotional resonance and dynamic quality that Tomasi utilized a lot for his issues in B&R. He's hitting the right notes every so often that is reminiscent of Tomasi's style but I think Gleason is also forming his own voice when it comes to the characterization of his Damian who is finally getting older at last. I'm so happy he's eleven now because when I was eleven, I had undergone some painful transitions myself so there are a few moments in between reading this issue (and the first two) that made me think about how I handled my own personal calvary back then, and if I truly did become a better person of my own making. Damian is struggling with this reality himself; his father saw his potential for goodness even when all he was ever programmed to be was to commit crimes and misdeeds--and he wants to keep proving Bruce right. 

Damian has come to terms throughout Tomasi's B&R that he is meant for something more and after he died and was reborn with Superman-esque abilities only to lose them after awhile, Damian is once again on the verge of going through something earth-shattering which is the entire point of cleaning up his heinous actions during his Year of Blood trials. I care about this character a lot and I'm so happy that writers like Tomasi and Gleason are taking the time to make Damian more knowable, relatable and utterly dynamic to readers. When I heard he was going to have his own title this year, I was overjoyed. I want Robin: Son of Batman to be good and to never forget what Damian Wayne means to fans like me who enjoyed seeing this kid grow up and be a hero on his own terms, through his own sheer will. (Uh-oh, so much for not fangirling the fuck out of Damian again. I guess I will never ever stop).

And that is what the third installment is all about. It's about Damian claiming independence by taking back his mistakes and doing something to atone for them. It's about him becoming more than just his father's son, his grandfather's heir, his mother's precious burden. It's about Damian moving on from whatever grand image all his parental figures have recognized in him, even Bruce. At the age of eleven, Damian had experienced so much grief, a lifetime of it even, that he is now prepared to become his own man. It's terrifying and exciting and overwhelming--but he has focus, strength and wisdom, now more than ever. This was why it was so touching to see him reach out to a person like Maya Ducard, Nobody's orphaned daughter. I originally thought myself that she was going to be some annoying, bitchy villainess who will be blinded by revenge and selfish goals, but she surprised me since last issue, including Damian himself. He knew what she is suffering because he had undergone it himself once with Talia.

She helped the people in South America when they were in danger. She showed compassion and concern over Goliath the giant bat and was even sweet enough to lull him to sleep when he was overcome by inexplicable rage. It seems that she was not her father's daughter after all. She was not equipped with his cruelty or single-minded mission to expel criminals through murderous means. She has a good heart of a girl who felt rejected and ignored by man who was never a father to her. As she and Damian exchange blows while crash-landing from the skies, she expressed all her rage and wanton desire to be worthy of her father's approval; she lashed out on Damian not really about avenging her late father but more because she was envious of the kind of relationship Damian had with Bruce, something she wished she had. Upon hearing this, Damian makes her an offer she was unable to refuse.

If she helped him atone for his Year of Blood crimes, he is also giving her a chance to become SOMEBODY as oppose to Nobody. Much like Bruce has given him a choice to become a better person by becoming his sidekick and partner Robin, Damian is doing the same thing for Maya, and don't we all want a second chance to prove we can be the best versions of ourselves? Of course, Maya accepts it. She started out with the vicious intent of killing Damian to avenge her father and ended up being saved by him when she accepted for herself that she can change as Damian is doing now. This isn't hypocrisy. This is evolution and change itself is always going to be gradual--it will take time--and it will be a hard battle to win.

After making amends, the two of them had a nice, quiet moment under the stars:

And then this immensely adorable moment:

I like Maya so far and I absolutely love Damian more for giving her a shot in claiming redemption for herself. It's possible that, considering they are close to the same age, she may become a love interest for him in the future...but for now I don't want any kind of hints and teases of romance between them because they're children and I would like them to focus more on their individual cavalries while developing trust and friendship along the way. Talia is also coming back so that guarantees that things will get messed up again later on in the series. Overall, this issue is a great build-up to what I hope will be a more rewarding installment next time around. Gleason continues to find his bearings as a writer while his visuals are stunning as always! 

I can't wait to read more of this!!


Detective Comics by Buccelatto issue #43

Even as I type this review, I'm presently balls-deep into the X-Men comics cavern (and yes, I used that expression correctly, if you can even believe it), which also meant spending less time with Batman. Still, there are three ongoing DC titles I keep track of and still find time to post reviews for, so my Bat-blog will have some surge of activity in a monthly basis at least. Let's start with Manapul and Buccelatto's Detective Comics run whose visual work for this story arc is illustrated by Fernando Blanco.

Manapul doesn't write this issue with Buccelatto at all which was puzzling to me and though I could give the latter some kudos for taking on the writing job solo for this issue, I can't wholeheartedly say that this installment was particularly engaging. There are small moments of greatness but overall, the narrative of this issue just didn't mesh well as one cohesive picture of events. It started out very excellently though; picking up right after the cliffhanger from issue 2 where Gordon stepped out of his robobatbunny suit to fight off three goons which I don't think was possible for him to survive through. Yet he did, frustratingly enough. The three goons in question were formidable fighters themselves and only someone of Bruce Wayne's training could have logically defeated them but not someone like Gordon who is not used to such brutal combats. That entire thing felt like a plot hole to me and, judging by how Bullock and Yip reacted when they found Gordon--beaten up yet still conscious with the two goons on the ground and one escapee--I think they share my utter amazement as well.

So the issue explained that these La Muerte mercenaries were hired by a Falcone (Stefano) and their goal is to steal the robobatbunny suit's nuclear power source. Oh yeah, apparently, Gordon has been running around with a FUCKING nuclear power source inside his combat gear, and that freaked him out upon learning about it but at this point, it's all a matter of hindsight and perspective. What should be done now is to look for said annoying could-kill-masses thing and stop whoever plans to use it to...kill the masses with bombs, I assume (only to be proven wrong later at the last page of this issue...well, sort of). To make matters worse, we also get another unwelcome appearance from FUCKING JOKER'S DAUGHTER (Goddammit all to hell and beyond, DC, stop making JD happen. IT'S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN).

God, I know how scattered my review is beginning to read by now and I would like to apologize for that. Let's remedy that, shall we? Now I want to talk about the production of this series as a whole since ManaBuc took over and in the aftermath of Divergence/Convergence big-event that came to pass earlier this year. I still think Detective Comics is a title from the roster worth picking up and I certainly enjoyed immensely what Francis Manapul and Brian Buccelatto have done since they started collaborating as writer and artist together. So I guess I do miss ManaBuc's collaborative artistic styles because it's the reason I viscerally fell in love with their duo in the first place. There is this shockingly energizing fluidity in each panel of their scenes every time they draw action scenes, most especially the quiet moments with Batman performing detective work. I can't say the same about current artist Blanco's work, and yet after three issues in, I think his style has taken a more personal signature which makes it distinct from that of ManaBuc's own, and I'm pleased to see some evolution in his artwork then. Some of them are downright atmospheric, most likely because of the colors that really brought out that eerie quality in the scenes Blanco depicted. I like these panels below:

Much like before, I enjoy the back-and-forth police drama that the story arc so far has heavily emphasized and consistently followed through. I like crime procedurals especially when they're done right and so far the writing for this story has been balancing the right tone and mood with just enough believability to keep me engage in the conflict and revelations unfolding. One notable one was about Nancy Yip, Bullock's partner (whom he was also sleeping with) and she turned out to be a dirty cop (which we were already privy of since issue #41, honestly). The developments are happening for this arc in general, but they are coming slow and often underwhelming and I don't mind, really. I'm reading this series because I like how integral Bullock feels in this story, and his relationship with the new Batman is refreshing, considering he has a real, personal connection with Gordon and therefore has to support him in his law-sanctioned vigilantism. That's a big step for someone like Harvey who is adamant about bringing down masked superheroes from the get-go. His, er, deal with Gordon about killing Yip was unsettling though. I'm just going to assume he wants to save her because he has feelings for her and he's asking for Gordon to help him make her disappear and start over somewhere. I could be wrong and I don't mind if I am because the last page of this issue was really...bonkers.

When one steals a nuclear power source, we would assume it's for mayhem and explosives, and though some side-bombing in the middle of a highway did take place near the end (I assume this is Stefano Falcone's work?), the real clincher is what that stupid Joker's Daughter used her share of the power source (am I getting this all mixed up? I got the distinct impression that the La Muerte are serving two masters who may or may not be aware of each other). What did JD use the nuclear power source for, you ask? Don't be glad you did because this is the only answer we will ever going to get for now:

WHAT. THE. FUCK. IS. THAT? Look I know they are calling it a "Jokerbot" but, seriously....WHY???

At this point, I don't know what's going to happen to Detective Comics but I will keep reading and reviewing anyway.