So a couple of weeks back I reviewed three titles from the new 52. This week I’ll continue with the Batman titles. All in all, there are eight batman titles in circulation in the new 52 (not counting Batman Inc., Batman Beyond Unlimited and previously ongoing titles). Now obviously I’m not going to review all of them,or even half of them for that matter… because (a) I can’t bother reading the back stories of all the superheroes (sorry Batgirl, Batwoman and Red Hood) (b) some of them have been consistently getting bad reviews (Batman: Gotham Knight) and (c) screw it! I’m lazy.
To start things off: BATMAN!Yes the original (nothing else added to the title) Batman. I think I’ll stick to the Plot, Artwork, Character format for reviewing like last time. Now this was easily the best Batman title out there, and for good reason! Starting off with the plot… just epic. It’s starts off, and ends with, a bang. The first comic sees Batman team up with Joker to kick some ass and as we’re adjusting to this crazy opening we realize it’s Dick Grayson (Nightwing) in disguise. This is followed by a huge social gathering in which the whole (or most of) the Batman family gets together. As the story moves along we’re met with a strange new foe/organization, The Court of Owls. Huge props to Snyder here for creating such a bad ass new foe. He could have gone with the tried and tested method of using the classics like Joker, Penguin, Bane or Scarecrow. It was always going to be a hit or miss and lucky for him it was right on the money. We slowly uncover how deep the Court of Owls runs through Gotham and how so many of the characters are entrenched in it’s bloody history. ‘Course i’m not gonna give anything away but the ending to this epic saga is mind blowing, and a little outrageous but hey!
The plot is quite easily the best aspect of this series. Next is the Artwork. Surprisingly the artwork (or faces at least) is not as realistic as the other series. The other titles have taken a distinctly realistic approach to the artwork, but it works well. It is thoroughly consistent and gels together rather nicely with the story. Lastly we have the characters: Bruce is… well, Bruce. The characters were exactly how they have been for the last twenty years or so. Bruce still sleeping around, Batman still squinting and pissing off Gordon. This isn’t exactly a bad thing but with all the secrets and past revelations getting thrown at you, you’d think we would get to see some emotional depth from the characters. In fact the only true insight we get is into Alfred’s mind. It’s nice to see some one add a new dimension to such a largely (for lack of a better word) overlooked character. Everyone else pretty much stays the same. Take them as they come. If you liked them before you’ll like them now, if you didn’t… well, too bad. Overall, this series comes together so smoothly that the flaws are easily glossed over and what you’re left with a masterpiece of a series.
The next one I read in the franchise was Batman and Robin. I was really curious about this one because the current Robin (Damian Wayne) is the fourth Robin so far. See this is one of the problems of a big reboot. You wanna start fresh but you can’t just erase all the things that happened in the past issues. Now in the “New 52” universe Bruce has only been Batman for 5 years. This means that he’s had a new Robin almost every year! Plus since he was around 25 when he became Batman, he was 20 when his son was born!… but for the sake of this review we’ll just gloss over these finer details and deal with the series at hand. Batman and Robin is very much like the new Superman series= Average… but in a good way. It doesn’t try to deal with something outrageous or cause some huge shifts in the personalities (mistakes made by the other two Robin series’, Red Hood and the Outlaws and the new Teen Titans). It keeps the story simple and focuses more on the growth of the characters. The story follows Bruce taking on his fellow protege’ from the past, Morgan, both of whom were students of Ducard. The series focuses more on Damian’s role in the problem rather than the problem itself. Usually i’m not a big fan of emo kids but surprisingly Damian’s fluctuation between arrogant detached killer and misunderstood child trying to communicate with his father is quite interesting. He’s probably my favourite Robin after Greyson. So as far as the plot goes it’s pretty good. The weakest point of the series is probably it’s artwork. For one of the more serious titles (and they’re all serious when it comes to Batman) the artwork can be a bit childish and scrappy at times. Damian looks even younger than his ten years and strangely annoying at times (or maybe that’s just me). Luckily the series has other strong points such as the characters. Firstly, Bruce, who seems to be struggling to find the best way to deal with his son and often leaves him to his own devices. This leads to Alfred taking over most of the duties of a guardian and often he spends more time with Damian than Bruce. Damian, for his part, acts pretty much like a ten year old is supposed to act; selfish, energetic, spoiled, aggressive and (in his own weird way) loving. He doesn’t know the best way to get Bruce to acknowledge him, which often leads him to overcompensate and earn Bruce’s disapproval. He even takes on all the previous Robins to prove his superiority and it takes some wise words from Dick Greyson (the first Robin and probably Damian’s only friend) for him realize that he’s “already wearing the uniform”… This series isn’t perfect, but it manages never to fall into any of the pitfalls plaguing the other less popular titles. With strong leads and a solid story-line this is one of the better titles in the Batman franchise.
The last “New 52” title I read in the Batman franchise was Detective Comics. Apparently it was being restarted after a long hiatus (incidentally it’s also what DC stands for). This, along with Batman, was probably getting the most hype so I gave the first chapter a go and let me say this… easily the best intro to a comic i’ve ever read. The ending of the first chapter gave me chills! Detective Comics features a host of villains and seemingly unrelated scenarios which start to tie up near the end. We start off with Joker, then move on to a guy with a skinning fetish called Dollmaker and end with the Penguin (concluding the first part anyways). We resume with Scarecrow and a cameo from Two Face. The last villain to appear in the first volume is Mr. Toxic (one of the lesser villains in my estimation… but then the name was kind of a giveaway). The plot is pretty solid in the first volume but steadily declines in quality. The result is a far from smooth transition but fortunately the story manages to maintain a decent level overall. The artwork is also a win here, especially the coloring. Everything from the emotions to the explosions is done expertly and the cold color pallet definitely sets the tone for the series. All the cover art is drool-inducing. As far as the characters go, the villains were more interesting then the protagonists this time around. Some decent dialogues and plot development ensured that the your interest was maintained and the end result was a solid start to the series.