Archive for Battle for the Cowl

Batman and Robin #1

Posted in Batman, Batman and Robin, Comics, DC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 5th June, 2009 by Adam Redsell
Together again for the first time.

Together again for the first time.

“Batman Reborn – Part One: Domino Effect”
Author: Grant Morrison
Artist: Frank Quitely
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Patrick Brosseau
Assistant Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Cover Artists: Frank Quitely and J.G. Jones

For all intents and purposes, Batman and Robin #1 is the real All-Star Batman and the Boy Wonder. Anyone who’s read Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superman (and Frank Miller’s woeful All-Star Batman) will know what I mean. This Dynamic Duo returns for this new limited series Batman and Robin, with an all-new Batman and Robin.

It’s at this point that I should issue a general spoiler warning for those who haven’t read and intend to read Battle for the Cowl. It’ll be impossible for me discuss future issues, or indeed any future Batman titles, without first disclosing the outcome of that battle. Henceforth, I will no longer tread around the identities of the new Batman and Robin.

Here it is: Dick Grayson is the new Batman, and Damian Wayne (al Ghul) is the new Robin. Tim Drake’s new role has not yet been addressed, but I assume he will be headlining the new Red Robin series. Now, onto the story!

Grant Morrison’s back with his trademark verve and kineticism. The style of this series is very much a throwback to the Adam West TV series and that good ol’ Silver Age magic, albeit with a mature, modern twist (as Morrison is in the habit of doing). The book opens with Batman and Robin bearing down on Mr. Toad and his band of miscreants in a flying Batmobile. No, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you, that just happened. Now, the difference between what you’re probably imagining, and what ended up on the printed page, is that Morrison actually makes it work (as Morrison is in the habit of doing).

Frank Quitely’s flying Batmobile is beautifully retro, as are Alex Sinclair’s colours. Quitely’s pencilwork is crisp and clean, though his ruddy inks belie a fondness of wrinkles, for better or worse. I think it makes for expressive character work, though others may beg to differ. If you’ve seen his work before, you’ll know what to expect, and he certainly doesn’t disappoint in my view. His incorporation of the onomaetopoeia into the actual artwork (water splashing forms the letters ‘SPLSH’, for instance) is quite clever, and not something that I’ve seen before. The sparseness of Morrison’s script has really allowed Quitely’s art to breathe, and it’s clear the team are comfortable in each other’s company here.

Bat-Shark Repellent is well-known for its Morrison worship, and for the sake of journalistic integrity, I make a point of highlighting this fact on every occasion. But allow me to highlight this as well: there’s a reason for it. One being that he always gives the most satisfying pseudo-scientific explanations! He gives one for the flying Batmobile, and it fits perfectly within comic book sensibilities and the Batman mythos.

The other reason, in this case, is just how well he makes all the elements mesh together. The new Batman and Robin suit the colourful tone of this book in a way that Bruce Wayne never could – there was always a heaviness and a seriousness to the post-80s Bruce that doesn’t lend itself to these kind of stories. Dick Grayson is Batman, but he was also the first Robin, and it’s clear here that that personality hasn’t been swallowed whole by the Bat-symbol. He still pays his dues to his Father and Teacher, and he wears the cape and cowl with a certain pride and trepidation, but he doesn’t take himself too seriously either. Which is a good thing when you have a handful like Damian al Ghul for a sidekick! Robin’s witty retorts and sense of entitlement are a hilarious counterpoint to a more patient and casual Batman – and why not? This Batman’s been Robin before; he just shoots back an even wittier reply and smiles knowingly.

Morrison is quick to establish this character dynamic, and also to distinguish this duo from previous incarnations. Then again, when was the last time you saw Batman and Robin really work together? I thought so. Watching them interrogate Mr. Toad is particularly entertaining.

This issue sees a villain known as Pyg and his Circus of Strange announce themselves as disturbing additions to Batman’s rogues gallery. Pyg is as deliciously creepy as any of Arkham’s inmates, while his henchmen are ‘themed’ villains in the vein of Batman’s more obsessive foes. His torture methods are the frightening antithesis of the Dynamic Duo’s interrogation. I mean it, he’ll give you the chills. The Circus of Strange is another well-meshed concept given Dick Grayson’s circus background.

If none of this makes sense to you, fear not! This is by far the most accessible Batman story I have read in a long time, possibly ever. The storytelling is simple, the dialogue is sparse, and yet it’s packed with plenty of brilliant concepts and comic action. I can think of no better time or place to jump in than here and now.

Batman: Battle for the Cowl #3 (of 3)

Posted in Batman, Comics, DC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 4th June, 2009 by Adam Redsell
Surprisingly smarter than your average bimbo.

Surprisingly smarter than your average bimbo.

Author & Artist: Tony Daniel

I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t anticipating the outcome of this series from the moment Bruce Wayne went AWOL (AWOL, not dead – nobody believes in character deaths anymore, you should know that by now), I’d be lying. Who will be Batman in his absence? Ponder the question for a few seconds and run with it, because that’s probably what happens here. Still, if I said it wasn’t entertaining to watch it all unfold on the colour-printed page, I’d also be lying.

Tony Daniel is a surprisingly decent writer given his outstanding artistic abilities. It’s probably a misnomer, but comic book artists are generally regarded as the bimbos of the comic world – they’re hot, but they’re not very good at talking. So maybe Daniel gives us the “World Peace” answer we’re all expecting, but he does so in a very satisfying and entertaining way, like a good, solid magic trick with plenty of cleavage involved.

Can you tell I’m trying not to spoil the ending for you? If you read enough websites, it’s probably too late for you anyway – I don’t care, as long as I’m not the one who spoils it for you. What I will tell you is this: the final battle feels emotionally weighty, perhaps even epic, and finally someone has the guts to make a definitive statement on Jason Todd (the long-thought-dead-until-four-years-ago second Robin, for those not in the know). It’s about bloody time.

What was disappointing perhaps was the length of this mini-series. It is a mini-series, though, and I think Tony Daniel knew just how many issues it would take to explore what was essentially a one-note premise. Having said that, the teaser posters did promise more fan service than what was ultimately delivered. Who here didn’t want to see Two-Face dressed in a half-and-half Bat costume? Broken promises notwithstanding, restraint should probably be applauded in this case.

Daniel-as-writer had a pretty good handle on most of the characters, especially Damian Wayne – he’s one of the few Bat-writers who’s dared to even touch him aside from Grant Morrison – and you can tell that his time drawing him with Morrison has lent him a rare intimacy with the bratty trickster. Nightwing, on the other hand, was a little confusing to read at times, and his full-circle monologues will require some small degree of blind faith. It was good to see him assume a leadership role in this issue, though – Bruce would be proud.

And it would be remiss of me to conclude without highlighting Tony Daniel’s art, which is great as always. He began on Batman as a relative unknown, but those who’ve followed him on Morrison’s run have no doubt come to appreciate his penchant for fluid, detailed action scenes. This issue, along with the rest of Battle for the Cowl, is no exception to that rule.

I have to admit, I didn’t think Tony Daniel could pull this off on his own, but what he has delivered is not only eye candy, but a solid read as well. What could have been nothing more than a contrived superhero brawl actually turned out to be an entertaining intermission between Morrisons.

Secret Six #9

Posted in Batman, Comics, DC, Secret Six with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 23rd May, 2009 by Adam Redsell
The funniest funeral I've ever been to.

The funniest funeral I've ever been to.

“A Debt of Significant Blood”
Author: Gail Simone
Artist: Nicola Scott
Inker: Doug Hazelwood
Colorist: Jason Wright
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Editor: Sean Ryan

It’s official.  Gail Simone’s Secret Six is now my favourite comic book.  Secret Six #9 is the best issue of the series thus far.

I’ve heard someone say that they would happily read these characters eating sandwiches and having a chat, and I’d have to say, I agree!  And that’s because – despite their grimeyness; despite their moral greyness – they’re so damn vibrant.  And so they should be – Simone herself nursed them to maturity.  Nobody writes these characters like Simone (and nobody draws them like Nicola Scott); even Bane – the man who broke the Batman’s back – has been enriched under her tenure.  The next part will come as a strange coincidence, then: Secret Six #9 is a Battle for the Cowl tie-in featuring only three of the Secret Six – Catman, Ragdoll, and Bane – returning to Gotham to pay their respects to Batman!  Talk about your strange situations.

And it pays off in spades, too.  This is easily the most hilarious single issue I’ve read this year, and definitely my favourite Secret Six story so far (and I’ve read them all).  Our three anti-heroes go from mansion to mansion to save the children of wealthy families from terrorists who seek to take them hostage.  This was a smart setup that very much parallels the Bruce Wayne’s own origins.  Bane in particular shines through, which is only appropriate for one of Batman’s greatest adversaries.  Of particular amusement was a scene in which Catman leaves Bane to take care of a little girl.  I’ll give you a taste:

CATMAN: Hang on, I count one missing.  Here.  Take this thing.

*Hands the toddler to Bane*.

BANE: What?  No.  I can’t.

I don’t…I don’t know how.

Blake.  BLAKE!

Hummm…

*Sings* Hush, little baby, don’t say a–

LITTLE GIRL: WAAAHH!!

BANE: Blake!  I MAY HAVE BROKEN IT!

To have such an imposing figure cradling a tiny child with a genuine look of terror on his face is priceless.

Ragdoll pays tribute to the Bat in his own twisted way, dressing as the Boy Wonder.  You can imagine this pleases Nightwing to no end when he arrives on the scene.  Ragdoll also realises his uncanny knack for making any word sound perverted.  Cheese-stuffed manicotti!

Most hilarious of all is Catman and Bane’s continuing debate over who is the biggest Batman wannabe – neither party wishes to admit it – both present strong cases; both raise many a chortle.  (Just quietly, I believe Catman loses that debate – read it and find out why!)

They may kill scores of terrorists in gruesome ways, but the Secret Six’s send-off to the Dark Knight achieves a level of poignancy comparable to Neil Gaiman’s “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?”  When you step back and look at all the elements in play here, it’s easy to see just how much sense this Batman tie-in made.  Hand in a glove springs to mind.  So does “velvety throw pillows!”  Well done, Gail and team.