2021 Comic Reading Challenge

May felt like a bit of a light month, although with 105 total issues, it’s right around the same amount that I’ve generally reached this year. Not a whole ton of note, I guess, but I will say, I’ve gotten on the Titans Academy train and, uh… it’s so much better than I would have expected. Not my favorite of the Infinite Frontier books, but that’s mostly because Tom Taylor’s Nightwing exists. Academy is a really good blend of Wolfman’s Titans and Johns’ Titans, while also using elements of the animated series to fill in some of the choppier character bits. Cyborg, Beast Boy, and Starfire are all at their best. I’m really, really surprised by it. I also reread Spider-Man/Human Torch by Dan Slott and Ty Templeton and that series is just the best. The art feels like a perfect blend of all the best Marvel stuff from the seventies while still feeling like its own thing, and the writing…

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Guys. This is all from just one issue. And it’s not even the best issue. Read it.

The 2008 Secret Six series has also been a highlight. Meanwhile, I’ve quickly realized that Injustice was only ever good because Tom Taylor wrote it. After he left, it stinks. Like, really stinks.

Anyway, here’s the graph for the month:
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And here’s the graph for the year overall:
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Lord,how I do miss hostess ads in the funnybooks…puttin that book on the list for next week

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It really is a treat. Dan Slott knows his Marvel history, that’s for sure.

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Kurt Busiek did it first

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Batman: Gotham After Midnight: 6 issues from 2009
Writer: Steve Niles
Hm… I was very wordy about the first half of this, but I really don’t have that much to say about the latter half that I didn’t already cover. It’s still OK but kind of hindered by the art and the bland love interest-

Ah.

Wait a minute.

I see what’s going on. That’s actually clever.

OK, so this thing has a twist. And it’s a twist that’s very similar to one I was planning to incorporate in a thing I was writing, and it still fooled me. So… respect.
1,125.

Batgirl (2008): 2 issues from 2009
Writer: Adam Beechen
Getting here was bumpy, but this actually had a pretty strong ending.

Cass is still too wordy though
1,127.

Batman: Cacophony: 3 issues from 2009
Writer: Kevin Smith
So this is pretty good, just one note, really.

The Joker with a beard is the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen.
1,130.

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updated

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Batman and Robin: 5 issues from 2009
Writer: Grant Morrison
I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to read this. I hate this.

You know, in addition to being just the most personally aggravating character in the DC Universe, Damian is also just arbitrarily good at seven million different things that, yeah, no, a ten-year-old would not be able to master. So everyone has to pat him on the back and reinforce his delusions of entitlement. And, as ever, the part that really sucks is that we’re expected to think it’s cute.

I also have no patience for the reassurances that he’s really a nice person deep down, because “deep down” is apparently so deep that it’s never actually demonstrated.

And Quitely just makes the entire book look annoyingly lumpy.

I think whenever Morrison gets bored, which is often, they take an issue out to spew incoherent nonsense that doesn’t actually mean anything before moving on with the plot. So, the Batman run was maximum boredom because I think more issues of it than not were largely comprised of dream sequence, but Professor Pyg here was like a 6 on the Morrison Boredom (Bore-rison?) scale.

Jason’s new outfit is perfectly ridiculous. As is his sudden weird branding obsession.
1,135.

Batman: Streets of Gotham: 5 issues from 2009
Writers: Paul Dini (main stories in 4 issues), Marc Andreyko (Manhunter backups), Chris Yost (main story in 1 issue)
Well, too much Damian for my taste, but at least someone actually remembered that he murdered the Spook even if everyone’s still bizarrely OK with this.

Oh, great, and we’re using Zsasz too. The most utterly inanely uninspired Batman villain. Excellent.

I mean, the Broker is interesting and I like Hush, at least when Dini is writing him, but the direction this plot is going is quite ominous.
1,140.

Red Robin: 5 issues from 2009
Writer: Chris Yost
Wow, this sucks.

Like, if you’ve been reading these reviews, you know how salty I am about Damian replacing Tim as Robin. I hate Damian and Tim is in my top five as the Bat-Family go.

But I also managed to get sick of Tim complaining about it inside of one issue. Don’t get me wrong, he’s right to be mad, because in-universe he got fired for no reason at all. It’s just annoying and takes up too much space too early in the book.

We also have rambling about how he is CROSSING LINES with inordinately little detail about what those lines actually are. We have him insisting he’s not Robin while calling himself Red Robin and wearing an outfit that’s really not all that different from his previous Robin costume. We have him coming to the conclusion that Bruce isn’t dead for no reason at all.

So, like, nobody asked for grimdark edgelord Tim. That’s not what Tim is here for.

If there’s one thing I like about this, it’s that it seems to be the only title that actually understands how stupid the Batbooks’ state of affairs was around this time. It’s just… not actually less stupid.
1,145.

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Batshocked

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Batgirl (2009): 3 issues from 2009
Writer: Brian Q. Miller
So, immediate observations from the first issue:

First: Tim making Steph promise not to be Spoiler was a really bizarre plot point, and the fact that it’s to set this up doesn’t do either that arc or this any favors.

Second: Why get rid of Cass? It’s pointless. Steph had a name and a role before. Cass just vanished after.

Third: Granting that that is partially editorial interference, this book isn’t really doing anything to smooth that over. Cass literally just strips, throws her costume at Steph, and jumps off a boat. What the hell?

Fourth: Not feeling the Babs characterization here. It’s falling back on “She’s angsty and doesn’t have friends. Isn’t it SAD?!” stuff that feels more fitting for pre-Birds of Prey character development. So it feels like BoP got canned just so she could repeat part of an arc she already had.

Basically, this whole thing just displaced so many good things that it never stood a chance of being worth the losses.

Onto the next couple issues, this thing is trying so hard to have a philosophical point it’s making, and it almost does, but none of it actually quite hangs together or makes very much sense. It’s, uh, something about not running, or running, or not having choices, or being who you are, or being who you are by wearing someone else’s clothes and changing your name, or… something.
1,148.

Batman: The Widening Gyre: 3 issues from 2009
Writer: Kevin Smith
So I’m only halfway through, but I like this so far. I know it goes to some places that… don’t sound great, but what I’ve read is winning me over. See, guys, Bruce Wayne acting like a human is not that hard.

Hell, I actually liked the issue with Cornelius freaking Stirk. How did that happen? Stirk sucks.

And I didn’t have anything particularly against Silver St. Cloud previously, but she comes across as a more distinct character here.
1,151.

Bunch of books started in December, so let’s just wrap this up:

Arkham Reborn #1 from 2009
Writer: David Hine
Interesting so far. What is it with obnoxious Alan Grant creations and being uncharacteristically interesting around this stretch of time?

Anyway, given that I actually do sort of know where this is going, it’s a little weird, but we’ll see.
1,152.

Oh, crap, I was going to read Nicieza’s Azrael series, but it’s actually not digitized. Whoops.

Batman: Unseen: 2 issues from 2009
Writer: Doug Moench
This gives me the vibe of a follow-up to Gotham After Midnight with the Kelley Jones art and exaggerated horror-movie-poster-style slogans on the covers, but we’ve swapped Steve Niles for Doug Moench. Like I’ve said before, Moench is a real mixed bag. I’ve read some great issues from him, but he skews pretentious and his writing is boring or insane just as often as it’s good.

What bugs me is when this is taking place. Stuff about a “new Black Mask gang” makes it sound like it’s current with the other books around this time, but Batman is Bruce Wayne, and furthermore he’s still got a yellow oval. So this is original Batman and original Black Mask, presumably back in the ‘90s sometime (circa the last time Moench was a regular Bat-writer, specifically; fancy that). But I’m not quite following when in the ‘90s.

The plot is also really belaboring how cool being invisible is. And it’s basically kinda just The Invisible Man. The villain’s ranting takes up way more space than it really deserves.
1,154.

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Detective Comics: 12 issues from 2010
Writers: Greg Rucka (5 issues, Question backups in 6 issues), David Hine (6 issues), Denny O’Neil (1 issue)
For the rest of the Batwoman stretch, the main stories are actually pretty good, though Jock is no substitute at all for J.H. Williams III. The Question backups started all right in ’09, but by this point they’re yet another “Rucka’s pet characters (plus that Zeiss guy who I thought only Ed Brubaker cared about) get together to be annoying at each other” fest.

The end of the Batwoman stuff is rather abrupt, too. Just odd that it ends with a flashback to Kate’s first case as Batwoman (interspersed with a similar case Batman is working which doesn’t seem to have any other connection beyond presumably happening concurrently), and as far as I can tell the stuff with Alice isn’t followed up. At least, not before Flashpoint, which is still a ways away when this ends.

Writers tend to stick to their pet concepts even when doing guest issues in other titles. And given the stuff going on with Michael Lane around this time mostly being written by Fabian Nicieza, for just a moment I wondered what was with the gratuitous Order of St. Dumas references in the O’Neil issue. I then proceeded to feel very silly. Good issue, though. I mean, obviously, it’s O’Neil, but still.

So, for Hine’s stuff, the Black Mask/Arkham stuff was a little confusing since I haven’t finished Arkham Reborn yet, but it seemed like a passable resolution. But the “Impostors” arc is absolutely moronic. The whole thing is complete nonsense, but the kicker is the attempt at a twist that Impostor Joker and Impostor Batman are the same guy. No freaking kidding. I called that from Impostor Batman’s first panel. There wasn’t more than a cursory attempt to introduce anyone else who Impostor Batman could be. The only twist I was expecting was that maybe Winslow Heath was only Impostor Batman and not Impostor Joker, but it’s confirmed very early on that he is the latter.

And oh god, it’s the “Batman causes the villains” argument. Like, factually speaking, there aren’t that many of them whose origins are directly attributable to him. So, this argument only holds up from a Doylist perspective (in that the villains are technically created so that Batman can fight them), but it’s completely indefensible from a Watsonian perspective. And yet there are about a million villains who try to trot it out. And for some reason it’s only Batman who gets this thrown at him, when, to the extent that it’s true, it’s not particularly more true of him than of any other superhero.

And with that, aside from a few undigitized issues from Peter Milligan’s run in the early ‘90s, I have now read the entire Post-Crisis run of Detective Comics. So… there’s that, I guess.
1,166.

Batman: 11 issues from 2010
Writers: Tony S. Daniel (7 issues), Grant Morrison (3 issues), Fabian Nicieza (1 issue)
Oh, boy, this just makes less and less sense as it goes. Why are the Falcones dressing like they’re from the ‘30s? Like, down to actually still using Tommy guns? And… are we supposed to assume that the Riddler… what, changed his mind about being a PI instead of a supervillain (which was interesting and cool, which means this era of Batbooks naturally had a grudge against it) because he was… next to an explosion? We also replay Babs/Dick/Helena love triangle (except for the fact that Dick and Helena clearly don’t even have that much going on) whining that was resolved like five years before this.

And… OK, no, seriously, why is the Reaper a super-strong tank? He was just a dude. He was an old dude.

And between Fright in this book and that “Alyce Sinner” person in Arkham Reborn and Detective Comics, does Black Mask: The Sequel have two girlfriends who know his secret identity and only like the masky side?

Whatever’s going on with the Riddler doesn’t make enough sense for me to understand it, but I think I don’t like it.

Morrison pops back in with #700 for, characteristically, more trippy rambling nonsense.

And RIP was apparently such a mess that Morrison had to go back and write more of it to… I guess try to help make sense of it, though “the missing chapter” doesn’t really say much that wasn’t already clear, or as clear as anything was in that arc.
1,177.

Batman and Robin: 10 issues from 2010
Writer: Grant Morrison
There’s still a pretty sizable amount of point-missing going on with Jason here. Though my more enthusiastic Jason-fan friends have made this out to be, like, the worst thing that’s ever been done to him, when it honestly still seems like a step up from Battle for the Cowl (low bar, but it does). I don’t buy him going for the kid sidekick thing, though. Seems like he’d be more bitter about his experience as a kid sidekick.

While it’s largely an excuse for Morrison to spew yet another round of impressive-sounding names that don’t actually mean anything, I do actually sort of like the references to British supervillains because I prefer the theory that there are international metahumans we just don’t focus on to books that try to argue that the protagonists are mostly American because of (a) conspiracies or (b) we’re just special for some reason.

And… Batwoman was apparently locked in a coffin by more Religion of Crime people since sometime before Final Crisis, such that Dick has to explain to her that Bruce is dead? What? What?!

Then they kill Batwoman just to put her in the Lazarus Pit, which seems pointless when they could have healed her injuries using the Pit without killing her. Though don’t they kinda burn out when you use them to resurrect someone? I recall that being a thing.

Then this Batman copy is nuts, but he’s also basically an innocent who’s just scared and confused.

So of course Damian lights him on ■■■■■■■ fire.

Probably still that “influence,” am I right?

I’m actually sort of enjoying the Wayne Manor investigation here, and…

And then Talia’s puppet control gadget thing doesn’t make much sense, but hey! Actual “influence!”

And the rest is just all “Ooh! Bet you don’t understand what’s going on here! Bet you don’t understand what’s going on here! Don’t you think I’m clever?” And at this point I really don’t particularly care who Doctor Hurt is. It’s certainly not like his plan makes enough sense to discern what he wants.
1,187.

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Batman: Streets of Gotham: 11 issues from 2010
Writers: Chris Yost (1 issue), Marc Andreyko (Manhunter backups in 8 issues), Paul Dini (6 issues), Mike Benson (2 issues), Ivan Brandon (2 issues, Two-Face backup in 2 issues)
Yost’s arc had me skeptical when I read the first half, but it resolved itself pretty well.

So, I’d heard about this scene and already thought it was the absolute height of Damian’s insufferable Gary Stu wankery:

Victor Zsasz, a dude whose whole thing is that he sees everyone as a corpse, inexplicably decides Damian looks fully alive to him for no reason other than to bash it into everyone’s heads just how special Damian is. Like, he’s already leaking ■■■■ty fanfic OC tropes from every orifice, did we need this too? Damian isn’t doing anything special here other than beating Zsasz up, which Batman does every five minutes, but even he doesn’t get this level of ass-kissing.

But what’s really disappointing is that this is from Paul Dini, who normally can, you know, write.

And why is Damian so special?

Oh, OK.

His entire reason for existing and having the role that he does, both in- and out-of-universe, is basically Bat-Nepotism.

I even like Colin Wilkes, but he doesn’t wind up doing much compared to Damian in this arc.

Next up, we have a character who has the exact same annoying mannerisms as Film Freak from that awful Catwoman run, once again shoving aside a more interesting character (the Carpenter) to take up page space with obnoxiousness. Come on, Dini. I know you can write.

… OK, maybe I’m being unfairly harsh on that arc because of the one immediately before it. (And Film Freak.) It was actually sorta fun.

Ivan Brandon’s Two-Face stuff… it’s the story of how he lost his coin, I guess? But, like, this isn’t the first time that’s happened. I dunno.

Dini makes Hush more interesting than most writers do, though a chunk of the plot of this arc (as far as I’ve read) only happens because Zatanna is an idiot. The plan has been that Tommy-as-Bruce’s babysitter stays with him at all times no matter what else is going on, but Zatanna tropelets away to help with a pretty standard Arkham breakout.

Meanwhile, in Manhunter land, I feel like being kinda “Blast legs off first, ask questions later” is pretty much strictly Kate’s own fault at this point.

Kate has attempted to schedule dates with both Dick Grayson and Jim Gordon within twenty-four hours. That’s gonna make the next Birds of Prey meeting awkward.

Harvey Dent representing himself is a little silly, but I’m not sure there’s a specific reason he can’t. He’s disbarred as hell, but defendants are permitted to represent themselves even if they’re not lawyers. “Fool for a client” and all that, but I guess it checks out. Though saying he’s competent to stand trial and represent himself, but still has to be committed to a mental health facility and not a standard prison probably calls for arguing an extremely specific level of sanity.

Odder is Kate threatening Jane Doe with execution in a state that doesn’t have the death penalty.
1,198.

Red Robin: 11 issues from 2010
Writers: Chris Yost (7 issues), Fabian Nicieza (4 issues)
Having the main character be named Tim and a major supporting character be named Tam is just inherently tension-breaking. Especially when there are multiple narration captions that are just “Tam,” because the line in the script could have been “TIM: Tam.” That’s just a funny-sounding sequence of syllables, like “dill pickle” or “wangle” or “Mxyzptlk.”

And… look, I like Tim, but some of the things he pulls off in this book are really over-the-top. One of his big weaknesses is that he isn’t the fighter a lot of the other Bats are, but here he’s bouncing through rooms full of assassins and metahuman murder machines unscathed by sheer power of narration.

And he’s being kind of a prick.

The “room full of assassins” thing happens more times than you’d think. Apparently they like to form into teams. Seems kinda counterproductive to the “stealthy killer” thing, but hey, if assassins want to have fun with their friends, who am I to judge?

And hold it! Stopping Hush from selling off Wayne Enterprises by making Tim an emancipated minor (he’s still a minor???) makes no sense. As far as anyone knows, Hush is Bruce Wayne. Even if Bruce willed his shares to Tim, Tim can’t steal them from a living “Bruce” just by being emancipated.

Once Nicieza takes over, it’s a bit derivative of Tower of Babel, but I think I’m liking it a little better? Still more of Tim winning fights he’s got no business winning, though. Again, like him and hate Damian, but Damian is also supposed to be this overpowered little mini-ninja trained to kill from birth and Tim is the more-brains-than-brawn guy. If I have to tolerate Damian existing in the first place, he probably would win a straight fight, especially here where he had the advantage of surprise.

And more Anarky. OK, this hasn’t gotten that much better.
1,207.

Batgirl: 11 issues from 2010
Writer: Brian Q. Miller
This book is incredible. It’s a scientific marvel. An unexplained literary phenomenon. It…

Finds a new way to be stupid on every single page.

I mean, I think I may have to do separate dropdowns for each individual issue just to cover the high points. Low points. Whatever.

#4: Apparently Extremely Limited POWAAAAH

I am way more agitated than I should be that Babs apparently somehow got the GCPD to get rid of the backup generator in their headquarters. To be “green,” apparently, but it’s a backup generator. You’re not supposed to use it unless something goes horribly wrong. Their cars probably use a thousand times as much gas in a year, and that’s accounting for the fact that blackouts are probably unusually common in Gotham due to supervillain attacks. So not only is it a really atrocious idea for the police to not have a generator, but it’s annoyingly out of character for someone as paranoid as Oracle not to think of that. In fact, she had backup generators in the Clocktower (before it blew up, RIP) for exactly this sort of situation, which saved her ass in No Man’s Land. And guess why this comes up? There’s a blackout and Central loses power! Golly, who could have predicted this eventuality?!

If this seems like an exceedingly minor point to be getting worked up over, it is. But it’s also something that is so utterly intuitive that it shows a complete lack of thought. Plus basic “You clearly wrote the exact opposite of what you meant” tier errors in dialogue are popping up again.

Anyway, and I am still on one issue here, Steph takes out Livewire by kicking a fire hydrant which Livewire conveniently happens to be hovering above. Even though she was running away from Livewire. Her narration asks “What would… anyone else do in this situation?” before she pulls this off, so apparently most people have the powers of instantaneous teleportation and conveniently placed enemies. And can set off a fire hydrant by just kicking it.

She also is apparently immune to Livewire’s powers because her costume is “insulated,” but if Livewire can’t exceed the breakdown voltage of an insulator thin and flexible enough to be sewn into a costume (after eating an entire city’s power grid, I might add), she should just give up now.

#5: How Dare You Be Standing in the Same Room as My Screwup?!

Moving onto sigh a second issue, I’m going to play a little game. I’m on the second panel of the first page. A building has burned down. A reporter is talking to the owner and his son. My guess is the owner burned it, probably to collect the insurance or put up a more expensive building. Could’ve been the son, I’ll count that as bonus points if that’s a twist, but more likely a third love interest (in addition to Tim and that detective guy I don’t care about).

OK, we’ll see how close I am once I finish complaining about other thing.

Why is Damian speaking in Britishisms (“Petrol” and “bugger,” specifically)? In Batman and Robin, he mentioned that he’d spent enough time in England to recognize a fake accent, but he’s never been written with the slang.

Then we have the whole “Steph is reckless and screwed things up” argument, except as far as I can tell she actually resolved a situation that Damian was threatening to make worse. But nobody chews out Damian over this. He probably charged in without thinking and almost caused an explosion (Not Steph, who, again, did something entirely sensible to fix the problem) because of “influence.”

I mean, we do get this gem:

But I feel like Babs should be yelling at Dick and throwing him out of the Batcave and not the other way around. Batman and “Robin” were the only ones who did anything remotely wrong!

In fact, you know what? Even Dick is really starting to get on my nerves in this era. He is living up to his name with exasperating consistency.

And then… wait, why does Steph need to take Babs’ clothes here? I guess this is to shoehorn in the weird comment about a push-up bra to follow up the equally uncomfortable “What chest?” joke (which wasn’t consistent with the art in this series, let alone any previous one, but still), but is there a reason she can’t go get her own clothes?

OK, the “mystery” remains outstanding by the end of the issue, so my guesses are still up in the air.

#6: Always Bet on Ack

We’re back to Dick being a, well, you know. But, like, the book doesn’t seem to want to fully acknowledge what a moron he’s being, when he’s objectively being a moron.

The bad guys also waited a surprisingly long time to start letting the mob of Z-list villains loose, but they’re all quite tonally incongruous with the rest of the arc.

So… hang on, Roulette is here?! And she’s somehow wrapped up in an arson scheme? I may have gravely underestimated just how little sense this arc would make. And her scheme is the exact same one that “Director” guy was doing at the same time in Streets of Gotham. These writers don’t seem to like to talk to each other. That’s OK, though. I wouldn’t want to talk to people putting out this crop of books either.

#7: Purple Five Standing By

I don’t know enough about computers or hacking to say for certain, but the technobabble sounds wrong. Do you “lose” firewalls? Can you “rewrite” an encryption on the fly? Does a “router maze” protect your stuff?

Oh, also, there’s the unholy lovechild of a motorcycle and a TIE fighter. That’s a thing that exists now.

And it doubles as a… cannon that shoots you out? Was this thing designed by a four-year-old? And this thing was supposed to be designed by Oracle as a getaway vehicle. How would this be remotely useful for her? The fact that characters repeatedly stop to talk about how amazing this thing is when it’s really not is eerily reminiscent of Jean-Paul Valley’s subway rocket from Knightfall.

It also stops to remind us that Steph had a concussion from being shot in the head, which she just… walked off, I guess.

#8: The Tim/Tam Flim-Flam

OK, Tim being kind of a prick is Red Robin’s problem that’s just bleeding over here, but it hasn’t stopped being the case.

Also, this detective guy is so boring. Other than the fact that the writer seems to be trying to set him up as a possible love interest to both Babs and Steph, which is just uncomfortable.

This is part of a crossover with Red Robin, but has a bunch of basic continuity errors relative to the issue it’s supposed to be following. The dialogue at the beginning is to the same effect as the dialogue at the end of that issue, but it’s different for no reason. And Lucius asks Tim where Tam is (that’s still funny) even though he saw Tam first there. Again, do the writers not talk to each other, even when they’re directly crossing over?

The League’s game plan here seems rather… slapdash. They claim they’re going to destroy Bruce Wayne’s legacy or whatever, but then they just jam some communications and send like five ninjas after Leslie Thompkins, completely ignoring Tim and Lucius. And then go after Thompkins (and other people) again in the following Red Robin issue.

#9: I Thought That Was Cell Phones That Did That, Not Calculators

More attempts at computer babble when you could have just, like, not.

More uncomfortable flirting with Detective McBoring.

The Calculator is talking to his son’s corpse and can make zombies now.

The usual, basically.

Wait what was that last part?!

#10: I am Still Confused

No, seriously, what the hell? When did this happen?

#11: Wow This Arc is Still Going Huh

Is it just me, or has the pacing gotten really slow all of a sudden? There’s like a plot point per issue.

#12: Holy Crap Just Stop

OK.

I guess Kilg%re is here now.

Grand.

Or was that not him? What was giant techno monster guy? Actually, screw it, I don’t care.

As the end helpfully notes, that’s this arc “finally concluded.” Even the story knows it’s going on too damn long.

#13: You're the Only Ship in Range

You know, there’s a lot of “Everybody else is busy, it has to be you” here too.

Anyway, her plan for Clayface is to throw Batarangs that explode into goop. He is goop, you idiot!

And I still don’t like Blandy McLoveinterest and super don’t care about whatever angsty backstory he’s apparently probably going to have.

#14: I Wonder if There's a Dracula Lantern Corps

OK, Kara is actually adorable. Credit for that.

You know, the dialogue of the characters reacting to the cheesy movie is not much less wooden than the intentionally bad fake movie dialogue.

Wait, so a machine somehow converted twenty-four frames of a movie into hard-light holograms of a character in it. Let’s pretend that makes sense for a moment.

Why are the holograms autonomously mobile and vaguely sentient-ish? There had to be a more sensible way to implement this premise.

So, credit where credit is due time, I like…

Um…

I guess I kind of like…

Some of the scenes with Babs and Wendy? And a couple of the jokes are very nearly almost not unfunny?
1,218.

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And here I was thinking that Batgirl would be the one non-Paul Dini Bat-book from this era you liked.

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It shouldn’t feel bad, I didn’t even like the non-non-Paul Dini Bat-book.

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Holey moley, cats n kitties! While readin thru the DEADMAN omnibus, up pops WORLDS FINEST #223(unavailable digitally, of course) Anywhat, on that issue, in like LESS THAN 20 PAGES, zany Bob Haney introduces us to Batman’s brain damaged older bro( way the heck before Snyder)and then, THEN! offs him so Deadman can take over his body and live a normal life. Thats the shorthand version, there actually about 2 years worth of storylines in that simple,silly book. AND I LOVED IT!

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Batman: The Widening Gyre: 3 issues from 2010
Writer: Kevin Smith
Let me just say that five issues in (not having gotten to the more infamous parts of the story), I’m still enjoying this.

And-

Oh, hang on, they never finished the story?! Like, I’d heard a lot of criticism about Silver’s death, but it’s not even all that clear that she’s dead.

So… Allowing for the possibility that this moment might have been resolved satisfactorily if the story were continued, I sort of like this.

I mean, the plot is basically “Everything seems to be going fine for a while until BAM, plot twist at the very end,” so that was a little risky, but giving it more episodic conflict from issue to issue was able to keep it moving along until the payoff. The sense of humor is a little immature at points (“bladder spasm” indeed), but it was genuinely funny. And while it might go a little too far in terms of his voice sounding a bit off, I do really like more human portrayals of Bruce and this is a good example of his, y’know, talking like a normal person and being nice to people sometimes while still feeling like Batman.

The one problem is the scene where Bruce starts worrying that Silver could be a robot. Like, I get that it’s trying to indicate his unhealthy paranoia, but the way he takes it out on her is unsympathetic and unnecessary. You’d think he’d just, like, quietly sneak a sample while she was sleeping or something instead of yanking her out of the car by the hair.
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Arkham Reborn: 2 issues from 2010
Writer: David Hine
This… was kind of a waste of time. Everything it’s building to happens in other titles. The reveal that the “three beauties” don’t exist is in Detective Comics and the reveal that Arkham is the new Black Mask is in Batman, and this makes no sense without that information.
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Batman: Unseen: 3 issues from 2010
Writer: Doug Moench
I’m not entirely sure how Black Mask explaining his over-the-top backstory convinced invisible guy not to kill him, but OK.

This is still hilariously extended and melodramatic for “Batman fights invisible person.”

On further research, I don’t think the timeline lines up on this at all, though, actually. Batman has a yellow oval. Black Mask has a skull mask. The only overlap in those two designs is No Man’s Land, but Gotham is decidedly un-earthquake-damaged here.

The climax is really hard to take seriously when you remember that to use the invisibility serum to create the “floating cape” effect, Batman has to otherwise be naked. Take that, Batman: Damned.

It also suddenly tries to be some kind of low-rent Batman: Venom right at the end. It’s all very rushed. And you’d think Bruce would have learned from the Venom incident.
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Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne: 6 issues from 2010
Writer: Grant Morrison
So Batman first goes back 50,000 years to when Vandal Savage was youngish, but then his next stop is the 1600s or so, and all the subsequent times are bunched together much more closely, going about a century at a time. Sort of sticks out weirdly.

Tim found the bat symbol in the cave out in the desert in Iraq, but here it seems to be beneath Gotham. But Vandal Savage is Cro-Magnon, a group that lived almost entirely in Europe. So where is this stuff?

Aside from those annoying bits of confusion…

Oh no.

Oh dear.

I think I actually kinda like this. The premise is a little stupid, but each individual scenario is actually fairly well-plotted.

It’s an unfortunate but inevitable disappointment when it gets around to having an overarching plot. In proper Morrison fashion, we go right back to a plot that hinges largely on poorly explained concepts written more to sound impressive than to mean anything.

Well, having fun was good while it lasted.
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Red Hood: The Lost Days: 6 issues from 2010(-2011 because there was just one issue left)
Writer: Judd Winick
Oh, finally, something that I can mostly unqualifiedly say I like.

From Winick, who I otherwise haven’t been super impressed with from what I’ve read.

Except for Under the Hood.

Maybe Jason is just his good luck charm. My only real gripes are first that it shoots itself in the foot a little by being a prequel because Jason keeps winding up almost but not quite doing things for vague reasons that only make sense because we know he didn’t get to it until the original arc, and second that while it’s sort of meta-funny, the retconning of Hush such that Jason really was at the graveyard is unnecessarily convoluted.
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Batman: Odyssey: 4 issues from 2010
Writer: Neal Adams
Oh boy, this one. You know what, I’m going to call that I’m going to need to go issue-by-issue again right now.

#1

Reinstituting Batman’s brief use of a gun into “canon” (except, as the wiki notes, this winds up making so little sense that it can’t possibly be canon) was certainly a choice right off the bat.

This whole issue has an almost dreamlike quality where characters and concepts drift in and out of relevance completely unpredictably. Like Dick suddenly becoming Tim between panels, or Man-Bat being in the Batcave for no readily discernable reason. Or the sudden introduction of the double flashback as Batman goes from narrating about his adventure on the train to narrating about himself narrating to Dick/Tim about his adventure on the train. While Tim/Dick flies around on Man-Bat’s back.

Wait, nope, it’s definitely Dick, just wearing Tim’s ‘90s/early ‘00s costume (or… something between the two; the coloring on the pants seems to call to mind the original but with red legs instead of bare, but it’s got Tim’s black cape lining, tabi boots, and shoulder panels).

Oh no, we’re doing flying cars again.

The dialogue seems to… go in weird circles, or… I don’t even know how to describe it. It’s like… if most conversations are a line, these conversations fold in on themselves like some kind of interlocutory tesseract.

#2

I love the summary at the beginning, both attempting to explain just what the hell happened last issue while simultaneously clearly being inconsistent to the extent that the last issue was comprehensible.

Batman taking time out to angrily explain to a goon why the hydrogen engine he was shooting at didn’t blow up is amazing. Like, in a “what the hell is this comic” way.

If the mustache dude from the top of the train was a bad guy, why did he shoot his own henchman?

Whoa, and suddenly we’re back on the train. Batman’s A+ idea to get people away from the bomb is to start indiscriminately firing guns in the air (yes, this is the same Batman we’re talking about), and he manages to be surprised when that creates more problems than it solves.

For as much crazy as it packs into an issue, this thing doesn’t move too fast, does it?

#3

Bruce and Alfred have a… new dynamic here.

Also, Bruce apparently has a hard time approaching the phrase “shoot in the face.”

Robin seems to have phased out of existence for most of the extremely overextended “Batman gets shot but his armor protects him” sequence and ensuing fight scene, then rematerialized in the middle of the latter.

This is… the characters’ mannerisms are so over-the-top, it’s surreal and terrifying.

#4

So… OK. The Riddler isn’t the Riddler. I don’t know who the guy actually is or why he would pretend to be the Riddler and then get arrested and then start threatening everyone with a gun, but now apparently random little girl got shot.

Very shot.

Like, four splash pages’ worth of shot.

That little girl wouldn’t move if you put four thousand volts through her! She’s bleeding demised! She’s not pining, she’s passed on! This little girl is no more! She has ceased to be! She’s expired and gone to see her maker! This is a late little girl! She’s a stiff! Bereft of life! She rests in peace! If you hadn’t nailed her to the page she’d be pushing up the daisies! She’s run down the curtain and joined the choir invisible! This! Is! An! Ex! Girl!

(Except she’s actually fine a few pages later. She was just resting.)

Also, uh, I’m not sure if there’s a good way to say this…

… Has Batman never encountered someone who killed a child before? This is a lot of reaction out of him.

Wait, how does Bruce decide Alfred is hiding something?

And then… and then Talia found something in a photo album, and Ubu is a Man-Bat, and Aquaman is there and he wants Batman to kill people, and-

what the hell is this series

This is so funny, guys. It’s incredible.
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Bruce Wayne: The Road Home: 9 issues from 2010
OK, this is an oddly-structured little… Event? Thing? It kinda substitutes for a bunch of series’ December issues here. The problem is that it’s really hard to figure out the reading order. The covers are designed to fit together in one big panorama, so at first I assumed the sequence was to follow the covers from left to right, but that’s not how they’re listed on DCUI and the wiki has another order still. Using the “to be continued” messages in the issues themselves seems to support the wiki’s order, but I’m surprised that the covers are not in order.

But, like, going by the one that’s the first among both the covers and the wiki list, they’re already referencing an event I haven’t read about (an assassination attempt on Mayor Hady, and I’m still not sure where that happened), so I’m sure I’ll turn out to have missed something now. For crying out loud.

And damn it, the “to be continued” messages don’t even follow the wiki’s order. By the wiki, Outsiders should be followed by Batgirl, but it’s ostensibly actually followed by Catwoman. But then Batgirl seems to have been released the week before Catwoman and also has “To be continued in Bruce Wayne: The Road Home – Catwoman” at the end! So the wiki’s order is right after all and the books themselves are confused!

  • Batman & Robin by Fabian Nicieza: Oh great, let’s dive back into watching Damian complain constantly. SHUT UP! I can already tell the framing device here is going to be annoyingly pointless.

  • Red Robin by Fabian Nicieza: Yost’s stuff seemed to be pretty explicit that Wanderer had personally recruited the Council of Spiders, but now there’s this Silk person who’s supposed to be the real mastermind. Odd.

  • Outsiders by Mike W. Barr: There’s something about Barr’s style that’s just so… heavy-handed. Like, every point has to be made in the most obvious possible way. Also, Bruce has a lie detector lasso?! That’s, uh, I think that belongs to someone else. Wait, does he have a whole suit full of Justice League powers? Why?

  • Batgirl by Brian Q. Miller: “Unless he starts cracking ‘wise’ and accidentally exploding people, you can rest assured you aren’t fighting Amazo.” Is… Is Steph inclined to accidentally explode people? Is this a reference to the time Damian almost accidentally exploded someone, Steph stopped him, and somehow the situation was agreed to be Steph’s fault even though she legit had it under control until Dick and Damian screwed everything up? And why are they calling disguised-Bruce Casper (which seems to be some kind of Casper the Friendly Ghost reference)? Is there something Casper-like about him? Is this some weird series of logical leaps, like he’s spooky and mysterious, therefore ghost, therefore Casper? But Casper isn’t spooky and mysterious, he’s friendly, and that would be funny irony except disguised-Bruce isn’t a ghost! He is not named Casper, and he’s neither a ghost nor friendly! You might as well call him Bugs Bunny for all the sense this joke makes! Why is this series so aggravating? And we get a “Whoever he is,” “Or she” exchange, except disguised-Bruce’s suit is still skintight, so he’s clearly a dude. It’s also embarrassing to see a professional writer manage to so badly garble the principle of Chekov’s gun. And this vague event thing that’s happening is being livestreamed, but literally only one person is watching it? I mean, it’s a stupid local event, but you’d think someone other than an assassin with a shooting-through-walls gun (Why did WayneTech build this?!) would be tuned in. We also dump on Steph’s entire time as Spoiler as “chasing after a boy,” so that’s nice too. And Cass quitting is apparently Bruce’s fault? Way to be a dick, Bruce. I think I hate that explanation more than no explanation. I also need to work up a rant about some titles’ fixation on just vomiting the word “hope” at you as a substitute for genuine optimism, but I’ve been going too long and this isn’t the worst offender.

  • Catwoman by Derek Fridolfs: All of the characters are disturbingly unconcerned with the human trafficking that’s very obviously going on in the background of the auction scene.

  • Commissioner Gordon by Adam Beechen: So, suddenly “Insider” is pretending to be a new vigilante instead of an assassin? I mean, some of these characters have a pretty good idea who he is, but it seems like that’ll blow his cover with the ones he doesn’t want to know.

  • Oracle by Marc Andreyko: Another rare bit of Oracle solo content, so I was predisposed to like that. Which is ironic, because the flashback is basically a strictly worse version of a scene from Oracle: Year One. Bruce and Babs are my favorite characters, but they have and should butt heads a lot. Making Babs’ motivation for becoming Oracle in large part “I don’t want to let Bruce down!” feels off. As Batgirl? Yeah, sure, that’s why she’s wearing his symbol. But Oracle is something she did for her own sake. And the rest of the plot isn’t really about her. Ugh. And I’m not making sense of Ra’s’ plan here. He wants to preserve Batman’s legacy for worthy-opponent reasons, so he wants to kill Vicki Vale before she reveals it, I got that. But then he leaks that she knows something to the mob and risks their capturing her and making her talk, when he could have easily just not done that.

  • Ra’s al Ghul by Fabian Nicieza: The whole plot is because Ra’s has memory problems?

  • Batman: The Return by Grant Morrison: Technically from 2011 but I’m seeing it listed as the conclusion of this event, so might as well. I’m salty enough that somebody else thought of my “Do the ‘I shall become a bat’ scene from the bat’s perspective” idea first, but did it have to be Morrison?

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2011, pre-Flashpoint. From what I’ve seen of this stretch, it’s basically the funeral procession for the DC Universe. I’ve read only Detective Comics and Birds of Prey.

2011 Pre-Flashpoint Batbooks on my Reading List (except Red Hood: The Lost Days and Batman: The Return because I just talked about them)
  • Detective Comics: Already read. I enjoyed The Black Mirror when I read it, but I’ve heard some criticisms, mainly of James Gordon Jr.’s backstory not making sense and being kind of a yikes handling of mental health issues, which make sense in hindsight. I might not enjoy it as much if I reread it.

  • Batman: More Tony Daniel. Not expecting great things, especially in relation to what he was doing to the Riddler.

  • Batman & Robin: Morrison leaves the book around here, but it’s still Damian.

  • Batman: Streets of Gotham: I’m still holding out vain hope that this will un-stupid itself at some point.

  • Red Robin: Maybe Nicieza can sell the rest of this. He’s still been hitting and missing, but he’s not a bad writer.

  • Batgirl: This book is exhausting.

  • Birds of Prey: Already read. And I mean, this volume went in some awkward directions, but it was nice to see the core cast actually properly together.

  • Batman: Odyssey: Hahahahahahahaha

  • Batman: The Dark Knight: I don’t remember who the writer is on this one. Losing Bruce from the main Batbooks… I don’t think it’s necessarily the cause of this era’s problems, but I miss having at least a regular Bruce book, so I sort of appreciate that they added one.

  • Batman Incorporated: This is where Morrison hops to and will probably continue their annoying plot.

  • Batman: Gates of Gotham: I have no clue what this is, so no expectations one way or another.

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So you know how about half of Court of Owls is just Scott Snyder waxing poetic about old buildings or whatever? That’s basically the whole plot of Gate of Gotham.

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Marvel took a heavy beating this week because I couldnt care less about the GAZILLION king in black tie in books. However, on the silver lining side, they dropped 10 more issues of the early 80s KAZAR book, the one that reads like an 80s 10 oclock drama show i.e. la law, st elsewhere,hill street blues…you whippersnappers remember those?

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