2021 Comic Reading Challenge

OH! and a big thumbs up for those AQUAMAN issues that im gonna jump back to. Early Jim Aparo art is really good, and the story way exceeded my expectations. I was only gonna read the DEADMAN back ups, but then found out they tied into the main(Aquaman) story so I figured I’d just read them here and glad I did. Well worth the time.

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Nice! I didn’t see that on the list of new issues. I haven’t seen any back issues hit in a long time. I’m almost up to 1980 so I’ll be hitting Ka-Zar when I make it to 1981.

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Batman (1940): 11 issues from 2011
Writers: Tony S. Daniel (4 issues), David Hine (2 issues), Peter Calloway (1 issue of Gotham City Sirens for a crossover), Fabian Nicieza (1 issue)
More weird Bronze Age character pulls. Like, really? You’re using that guy from Mod-era Wonder Woman?

With all this talk of “the Beholder,” I can’t help but imagine one of these guys:

Oh god, the Riddler’s new outfit is horrible. It’s almost as bad as Emo!Neck-Tattooed!Riddler from that one arc back… before Infinite Crisis, I wanna say?

The “Judgment on Gotham” crossover is bad and boring. Part of me wants to suggest that I might care if the ’09 Azrael series had been digitized such that I could have read it, but I suspect that would be just as obnoxious as this. And part of me wants to try to articulate what’s so bad about it, but I’m not sure it has redeeming qualities. If everything is as bad as possible, it’s hard to describe in any specific terms what’s bad.

Once again, Two-Face has had multiple coins in the past and I think even made do with normal heads/tails coins.

And while I can get behind Gilda Dent being relevant, it’s done in the least interesting possible way.

And this arc focusing on Two-Face is… three issues. That’s a sin.

And it ends on a cliffhanger that’ll never be resolved. Probably thankfully because this take on the Riddler is all kinds of annoying.

The last issue is a wall of canonically dubious (among various other problems, Dick was not living in Gotham when he became Nightwing and Jason really didn’t do much of anything wrong for most of his time as Robin, so boiling him down to “the wrong choice” is dumb) exposition that does that thing where it screams over and over really loudly that Damian is DEVELOPING when he doesn’t actually act differently and nothing precipitated said alleged “development.” Again, some of his more annoying mannerisms sort of… drained out as writers got tired of writing them, but nothing ever really happened to change him. It’s like the illusion of a character arc with no actual story or conflict.

And that’s all of Post-Crisis Batman. What a sputter to end on.
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Red Robin: 10 issues from 2011
Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Bumped this up so I could read the Judgment on Gotham crossover in order without skipping ahead. It was probably not worth it.

Anyway, I sorta can’t believe I’m saying this given his historical characterization (in earlier stuff, he bordered on prudish), but would you keep it in your pants, Tim?

Hey, another book that doesn’t seem to understand that computers are not a magical alternate dimension!

At a certain point, it’s like all the writers were trying to one-up each other about who could come up with the most nonsensical Calculator plot.

I feel like Lynx II speaking in sentence fragments is new? Where’d that come from? Or is this just the first we’ve seen of her speaking English? I guess that’s possible.

And now there are even more assassin teams! Get a new trick, book!

I’m continually surprised how abruptly these pre-Flashpoint books end. The writers clearly had almost no notice at all that they were going to get canceled, because most of them have huge dangling plot threads.
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Batman and Robin 2009: 11 issues from 2011
*Writers: Grant Morrison (1 issue), Paul Cornell (3 issues), Peter J. Tomasi (3 issues), Judd Winick (3 issues), David Hine (1 issue)
We start off confirming that Morrison’s whole run is basically a sequel to Dark Knight, Dark City, which was a pretty mediocre story to begin with.

Hey, wait a second, Damian just casually immolated one of Hurt’s stupid “99 fiends.” What happened to not being “influenced” anymore? And why doesn’t Bruce care? Are we supposed to assume that these idiots are all actually literal demons? Then why do they, uh, look and act like random human henchmen?

I honestly forgot that this Doctor Hurt plot wasn’t done, that’s how little I care about it.

Absence has the dumbest backstory. It sort of purports to be making a point, but it seems to boil down to “Bruce is terrible because he sometimes dates people but doesn’t have sex with them.” That… that seems to be all there is to it, right?

Now, moving onto the supposed ultimate Damian writer who will finally sell me on this awful, awful character.

Anyway, we open on movie night with “the whole family.” Except the girls, who I assume have cooties. (No, seriously, Cass is even legally adopted at this point, come on. It’s not even like it’s a Robins thing, because Bruce and Alfred are there and Jason isn’t.) This accomplishes nothing at all and has nothing to do with the rest of the issue or the arc.

And- Oh for god’s sake. Damian is worse here. At least under some of the other writers, he could shut up and stop being a pain for a minute or two. Now, other characters are suitably annoyed by him sometimes, but we have a higher percentage of panel count dedicated to “The scene stops so everyone can react to Damian.”

The victims are described as “relatives of Arkham’s inmates,” but that doesn’t square with the attack on Kirk Langstrom’s family, because to my knowledge Langstrom was never an Arkham inmate.

Odd note: Jim Gordon’s eyes are prominently shown to be green. I don’t think they’ve ever been green. They were changed to blue post-Flashpoint for some inexplicable reason, but it looks like they were always brown before.

We get more “Damian is bratty and needlessly confrontational, and in response other characters happily take that and pat him on the back and tell him how great he is” interactions, which are just my absolute favorite.

This White Knight guy is… OK, first of all, while I sort of appreciate the restraint as to directly spelling this out, the “GET IT?! BATMAN IS DARK AND THIS GUY IS LIGHT BUT IT’S CLEVER BECAUSE BATMAN IS THE GOOD GUY AND HE’S THE BAD GUY! AREN’T I CLEVER?!” thought process is pretty obvious.

Actually, scratch the part about restraint as to directly spelling this out – that’s 90% of the dialogue once he actually starts fighting Batman.

But also, his motivations are really silly. Like, at a certain point you just kind of have to accept that he’s just crazy for any of what he’s doing to follow logically. And anyway, I’m honestly shocked Zsasz’s family wasn’t already dead.

I also assume we’re supposed to applaud Damian for not letting the Arkham inmates drown when doing so required absolutely no risk or effort on his part and would be a bare minimum expectation from any other character.

Onto Winick’s arc.

I feel like I’ve heard about a plot point coming up a couple times for the Punisher where he gets himself thrown in prison just to kill prisoners. Which seems sort of pointless compared to being able to kill people who are not in prison, and Jason Todd is not the Punisher. And yet… here he is, being the Punisher.

Among other things, he’s a bit choosier about his targets. Killing eighty-two prison inmates by poisoning the food is really excessive.

It also still seems strange how comfortable he is having his own kid sidekick. Like, I wouldn’t expect Morrison to offer any more development or explanation for that, but you’d think Winick would at least do something with the idea. It could be interesting, but I feel like there’d have to be some reason for Jason not to have any choice in the matter.

And we conclude on some stupid pretentious French Joker. Wait, didn’t Hine just write another dumb Joker knockoff over in Detective Comics? Get a new trick, dude.
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Trying not to be spammy here, but I’m just reading more than usual recently. Maybe I should try to post these in fives, though marathon wall-of-text posts aren’t much better than a million small ones.

Batman: Streets of Gotham: 5 issues from 2011
Writers: Paul Dini (main stories), Fabian Nicieza (Ragman backups in 3 issues)
This is actually getting better (just in time to end, of course). Oh, and Doctor Death is relevant! That’s always cool. Plus Martha actually being important, too; a lot of writers forget that Bruce had two parents. Not sure why it’s called House of Hush, though; the Elliot family home appears briefly in the first issue from the previous year, but otherwise there’s not really a particularly important house anywhere.

A little baffling how the entire JSA showed up for one arson incident. You’d think it would be just Green Lantern.

Bedbug isn’t followed up at all, though that seems to be more of a Flashpoint problem than a this book problem.

And best of all, guess who’s not in it anymore.

Ragman is cool and underutilized. And the art… It’s not so much that the pencils are all that good, I guess it’s more in the colors, but I like the use of lighting in this. It does occur to me, though, that this is the same plot as the flashbacks in House of Hush. Although… am I crazy, or does this story not actually end? It just trails off.
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Batgirl 2009: 10 issues from 2011
Writer: Brian Q. Miller

#15: Look, I KNOW I’m Harping on People Ignoring Cass, but Why Do They Keep Ignoring Cass?

Steph’s summary of the Bat-family is reasonably funny and accurate, but wow, way to not mention Cass at all. You know, your friend whose name and job you stole? Remember her? No?

OK, first of all, I was really expecting the group of sinister hooded figures to turn out to be frat boys and their chasing the guy to turn out to be a hazing.

It’s the revenge of the non-sequitur banter, with Detective Blandings suddenly concluding that Babs is a “lit buff” based on either nothing or a sarcastic comment about Shakespeare, depending on who the off-panel voice in the previous panel was.

He’s also weirdly blasé about her being in the middle of a crime scene given that for all he knows, she’s just some random professor.

Also why is she spending time being a professor? I forgot to ask this before. It seems very pointless.

Untangling what I think is supposed to be a “Captions complete the sentence in a different way from dialogue” moment but is actually just nigh-incomprehensibly scrambled, we get the line “Batgirl is the first time in my life I’ve felt useful, confident, and productive.” Again, way to ■■■■ on her entire history as Spoiler, book.

Does one “sift through” a router? Please stop trying to computers.

#16: They Didn’t Stop Trying to Computers

OK, disappearing between panel borders while people are actively watching you is a neat trick.

By which I mean what?

And now Wendy is reconstructing the contents of a flash drive from “fragments skimmed from routers.” Guys, computers aren’t that hard.

#17: Well, This One’s Just All Damian Being Insufferable

… Yeah, basically what the dropdown title says. I must grudgingly give it credit for actually acknowledging the absurdity of the character and trying to play him for humor, when everything else to this point has taken him as dead seriously as he takes himself. But that’s partially because he still is as overpowered as he purports to be. It also still makes him a character stupid enough that he comes closest to being functional when used as a joke in a critical role in a franchise that takes itself pretty seriously.

So this setup where the kidnappers are going for middle class kids instead of rich kids is interesting, but no satisfactory explanation is offered beyond “Workin’ class folk’ll do whatever it takes to get their kids back,” which (a) sounds like they’re talking about poor people and (b) may very well be true but doesn’t explain why kidnappers would be interested when rich folk can cough up a lot more money a lot more easily.

Damian says “Never send a girl to do a man’s job,” (Oh, he’s sexist too, grand) and when he screws up, Steph hits him back with “Never send a boy to do a girl’s job,” but the obvious actual takeaway is “Never send Damian to do a job.”

#18: The Magical Immortal Kid Acts More Like a Kid Than the Actual Kid

Teekl is still not a male cat.

“And this is all because someone beheaded a clergyman?” Question: What is? What clergyman? What? Where the hell does this line come from?

Anyway, this is a whole issue about cat sex and I won’t waste any further brainpower on it.

#19: The Bad Decision Olympics

“Our friend could use some emotional support.”

“OK, I’ll handle it.”

*The exact opposite of emotional support ensues*

Anyway-

Oh, you idiots.

“Hey, what’s this thingy?”

“Oh, it’s a tracking device.”

“Awesome, let’s bring it into our secret hideout.”

Gonna be even madder at these Reaper guys if they don’t invade “Firewall” (a name which almost but does not quite make sense) because of this.

(They do not, in fact, invade.)

#20: I Wonder if The Great Generic Detective Has Been Working on That Paperclip for Days on End

“I’m sorry… You aren’t doing the chapter any favors here. You gotta go.” Do frats even kick people out? I feel like they’re where people who can’t function in the rest of civilized society wind up, sort of like prison or Wal-Mart.

The issue actually makes this joke, but I’m honestly baffled as to why Two-Face didn’t attempt to steal a whole shipment of two-dollar bills.

Batarangs are not that big! I don’t even know how the gooparangs can hold all their goop, let alone be magnetic and deliver an electrical charge at the same time! I get that it’s a joke, and it’s sort of a funny joke, but it’s also a joke that’s the entire reason this plot gets resolved!

Wait, speedster guy’s name is “Xane Swift?” Yeesh.

#21: Marvin Was Dead, to Begin With

I guess the in media res opening saves on pagecount, but it’s not like we back up to the beginning to learn anything interesting, so it seems odd.

Wow, Fakeout Ghost Marvin sure added a lot. Should we be concerned that Wendy is just kind of hallucinating her dead brother? Like, yeah, at least she knows that’s what’s happening, but she’s not not hallucinating.

“Your ego has as much to do with this as your spine does.” And this series had such a nice scene early on making the point that Wendy couldn’t just angry-willpower her injuries away. But now apparently she’s gonna peace-willpower them away, which isn’t any less dumb. And apparently that takes the form of “Go to Nanda Parbat and use their magic healing spa,” which isn’t a bad decent treatment plan if you can get it, I guess.

#22: The Stroke

The reference in the last title was too classy, I had to fit something dumber in.

Wait, hang on, now the comic is doing Dickens jokes, can I take this back-

Anyway, this is very, uh… “Haha, Britain is a thing.” Not that I don’t find that fact amusing, but it’s a bit of a stretch for a whole issue.

#23: Professor Plum in the Prison with the Power Armor

Steph didn’t really do anything. Like, at all. She walked in, got told an evil plan, and then a bunch of other people did the fighting bit.

Anyway, there’s been so little reference to Cluemaster, I honestly forgot he wasn’t dead.

#24: It’s Also the End if You Don’t Want it to Be, Ain’t Flashpoint Grand?

Wait, apparently he is “supposed to be dead.”

Anyway, this book would have you thinking that War Games was basically the only thing Steph ever did before. That’s probably the most grating part: how smugly dismissive this book is of everything that came before it.

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Batman: Odyssey 2010: 2 issues from 2011
Writer: Neal Adams
The attempts at summarizing what’s going on are still the funniest part.

You know, I thought we’d actually resolved the flashback. Or… one of the weird nested flashbacks. The one that seems to be the closest thing to a main plot. I think at a certain point we must have been looking at Uncomfortably Hairy Shirtless Bruce telling the reader the story of Angry Bruce telling Alfred the story of Main-Plot-Era Bruce telling Robin the story of Early Bruce getting shot on a train.

Deadman’s exasperation, while as bizarre and disconnected as everything else in the book, is very funny.

Why… Why are there five Jokers? Did somebody let Geoff Johns into this book?

A lot of the plot developments are so baffling I’m not sure what to say about them other than just pointing them out.

One odd continuity error: Dick Grayson’s parents were not shot while performing a trapeze act like Deadman; the trapeze itself was sabotaged so they’d fall. That doesn’t make a ton of difference, but it couldn’t have also been a League of Assassins job because they figured out who did it, and Tony Zucco wasn’t exactly a ninja.

Wait a second, back up.

What was Bane doing in Arkham? I mean, he was never in Arkham, but he certainly wasn’t around at any point while Dick was Robin. The rest of this seems to be purporting to be some kind of ‘70s throwback.

This is technically the end of the series because they rebooted the numbering because of the New 52, as if this were somehow canon.

Have I mentioned that I hate the New 52? I’m probably going to start mentioning that a lot soon.
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I was/am reading BATMAN VS RAS, the newish one by Neal adams but good lord! I had to reread each book when a new one came out and I still had a hard time following what was goin on.

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Batman: The Dark Knight Vol 1: 5 issues from 2011
Writer: David Finch
Bruce apparently managed to have a crush when he was like six years old. That’s almost impressive dedication to accumulating even more forgettable civilian love interests.

Not a fan of the wacky sci-fi gadgets, either. They’ve been pretty inescapable in this era, especially Dick’s stupid flying Batmobile, but the weird grapple net thing he uses against the Penguin is really a stretch.

Uh… what happened to Ragman? Rory Regan is fine in Streets of Gotham, but here, Ragman is some other loony undead guy (who doesn’t even seem to be Jewish, which I thought was kind of the point of the Suit of Souls???) who dies (re-dies) at the end, and there’s no indication of where Rory is.

In any case, this was entirely pointless.
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Batman Incorporated: 8 issues from 2011 (plus the Leviathan Strikes oneshot from 2012 that gathered unpublished material intended for this series)
Writer: Grant Morrison
Japan arc:

Oh, hey, it’s that guy with the resurrection yoga.

So Batman sweeps into Japan, arranges for the public “death” of a local hero, and replaces that guy with “Batman of Japan.” Anybody else getting a weird imperialist vibe off of this?

Argentina arc:

Odd that Bruce is surprised to be dancing the Tango of Death when he’s clearly leading.

Ah, here’s where the bizarre retcon about Kathy Kane still having existed came in. It’s, uh, bizarre.

Doctor Dedalus issue:

I super don’t care about Spyral, which is unfortunate because I know for a fact that they’re going to not go away for the whole New 52 and at least a sizable early chunk of Rebirth.

I recall the Hood being much more of an anti-authority type than a superspy last time he appeared. He also looks disturbingly similar to Azrael, but that problem already existed and was even more questionable back when he was introduced in, oddly, Knightfall.

The, uh, kinda intermission issue:

So… am I going crazy, or is the forum scene stolen from something that happened in Dini’s Detective Comics? And anyway-

OH MY GOD THE SUBWAY ROCKET IS BACK, I DON’T KNOW HOW TO FEEL ABOUT THAT BUT IT CERTAINLY IS A THING THAT IS THE CASE

And they sort of remembered that Cass exists just in time for her to, uh, stop existing like two months later.

South Dakota issue:

So, if Man-of-Bats is a Man of Bats, what’s with the stereotypical feathered headdress?

Internet issue:

Oh god the comic writers are trying to computers again. And… yep, it’s the internet as a magical alternate dimension again.

Leviathan Strikes oneshot:

Why is this series the only one that was allowed to wrap up all its plotlines after Flashpoint nuked everything? What’s so special about it? I resent that more than anything.

Otherwise, it’s just Morrison being impenetrably pretentious as usual. And Damian kills somebody again. “Influenced” him right through the eye. Not particularly necessary, as far as I can tell, but everybody’s apparently just fine with it. Little ■■■■ can get away with anything, and why? Because his mommy and daddy are rich. How does this not bother anyone else?!
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Batman: Gates of Gotham: 5 issues from 2011
Writers: Scott Snyder (co-plotter) Kyle Higgins (co-plotter, scripter on 2 issues, co-scripter on 3 issues), Ryan Parrott (co-scripter on 3 issues)
And here it is, the very last Pre-Flashpoint Batbook.

Well, I was promised an entire book of Scott Snyder being an architecture nerd (well, via Higgins and Parrott, I guess), and that is indeed what it is. I’m… pretty OK with that.

And Cass is here too! A bit wordy, but she’s in the plot and people care that she exists! Just in time to not exist. ■■■■ the New 52.

I think sacrificing the Iceberg Lounge to save Damian Wayne is a worse trade than sacrificing Wayne Tower to save Tommy Elliot, honestly.

I had always assumed that the Iceberg Lounge was a newer building, but I guess nothing specifically said that. It just kind of started showing up as an established thing somewhere in Dixon’s Detective Comics. I read its first appearance without even particularly processing that it was a first appearance.

I like a lot of it, though the twist sucks because they passed up a far more sensible twist that would have had the exact same effect. Instead of his pressure suit inexplicably driving him crazy and causing hallucinations, suppose Nicholas Gate just screwed up building the bridge because he agreed to the less structurally sound location Alan Wayne wanted. He assumes Cameron Kane sabotaged the bridge and possibly goes over the edge because of that. Boom. Same story, substantially less dumb twist.

But it has some of the most nearly almost passable (but for all the complete sentences) Cass content since her ongoing got canceled, so that makes me very happy.
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The New 52 started pretty late in 2011, so this’ll be a quick one- or two-issue sampler of these books to start off, but here’s what’s on the agenda for Post-Flashpoint.

(Order’s a little shuffled because my usual logic is to go by how old the series is and then alphabetically for ones that started in the same month. But these are almost all starting in the same month, so it’s pretty much entirely alphabetical.)

  • Batgirl: I hate that this exists and I’ve heard bad things about it. So… I like Gail Simone, but I’m not expecting her usual level of quality here.

  • Batman: Already read. The Court of Owls doesn’t make a great deal of sense. It’s never clear what they’re actually doing because they seem to be so secretive that they couldn’t do anything without revealing themselves, and Batman gets oddly bent out of shape about the fact that he thought they weren’t real when he’s clearly at least fighting a group that can convincingly imitate the Court of Owls.

  • Batman: The Dark Knight: Wait, this is the one with White Rabbit and One-Face, right? That’s gonna be a ride.

  • Batman and Robin: This is supposed to be better than the original series, but I have all the doubts.

  • Batwing: I liked the one stray issue of this I read.

  • Batwoman: Actually looking forward to this.

  • Birds of Prey: It’s not real Birds of Prey without Oracle.

  • Catwoman: I have heard not-great things about this.

  • Detective Comics: Read an issue. Wasn’t impressed.

  • Nightwing: Mostly just hate that red costume.

  • Red Hood and the Outlaws: Uuuugh, Lobdell.

  • Batman: Odyssey: Well, it’ll be funny, at least.

OK, let’s go.

Batgirl 2011: 2 issues from 2011
Writer: Gail Simone
Have I mentioned how much I resent that this exists? I really, really resent that this exists.

Let me start with the usual “Why regressing Babs into Batgirl is the worst idea” rant and I’ll get around to the book itself momentarily.

  1. She’d grown up. Batgirl is a junior role based on copying someone else’s gimmick. Oracle is a leader and an adult.

  2. Oracle is unique, or at least fairly distinctive. There are a few characters who do things similar to Oracle, but not on the same scale and not in the Bat-Family because, well, they already had Oracle. Batgirl is a vaguely tech-savvy secondary facepuncher, of which the Bat-Family has like five and counting.

  3. It suggests that having a physical disability is just too horrible for her to bear without getting a magic implant to fix it, which is demeaning to both Babs and actual people with actual disabilities.

  4. Similarly, how many superheroes with disabilities are there, and how many of those don’t have some other superpower that renders it essentially moot? Nice job on representation, guys.

  5. There were… well, there was one other perfectly serviceable Batgirl and one sort of less sucky Batgirl.

  6. Some people argue in favor of Batgirl with basically a “Why are you wishing injury on her?” argument. Or more often “I hate seeing her in the chair.” Well, of course you do. That feeling is called pathos. Writers use it to make you care.

  7. You also can’t really have Birds of Prey like this. The original series is about Oracle having this global intelligence network, with Black Canary and later Huntress acting as field agents for it. But now, she is the field agent and doesn’t do the secret spymaster thing. So that book has no premise now.

Now, the actual issues here. First of all, if I had a roommate who painted “Fight the Power!” all over the wall in blood red, I would be gone within twenty-four hours.

I’m going to give this the benefit of the doubt and assume Babs’ psychological issues are played up to try to take some of the edge off of her suddenly being able-bodied (albeit still condescending to people doing exactly what this book itself is doing) by reminding us that the emotional trauma isn’t just part of the physical scars.

But the way she freezes up just seeing someone vaguely point a gun in her direction really doesn’t match her history at all. And it makes her look extremely reckless for charging back into the field if she can’t handle the pressure.

It’s also trying to make some kind of Statement about a friggin’ cemetery. I really couldn’t care less.

So, here’s the thing. Usually when I don’t like something and complain about it, I’m secretly actually having a great time doing the complaining. But this… Even as much as I complain about the creative decisions behind it, I wasn’t expecting it to have this much of an emotional impact on me. And not in a good way. The whole thing just gives me this sad, empty feeling in the pit of my stomach. I mean, as much as I hate what they did to Babs, I like Gail Simone. Part of me was still really hoping she could sell this as a passably enjoyable read in execution. That’s, uh, not really what’s happening so far.
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Batman: The Dark Knight Vol 2: 2 issues from 2011
Writers: Paul Jenkins and David Finch (co-plotter)
OK, yet another Forgettable Civilian Love Interest™ who is really obviously actually a villain.

But also… “One-Face.”



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Batman and Robin 2011: 2 issues from 2011
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Now, by all means. Continue doing such a brilliant job selling me on Damian.

OK, did you need to one-up (what’s the opposite of one-upping? One-down?) the Subway Rocket with a freaking Sewer Rocket?

“You’re sounding more and more like a cold-hearted ten-year-old boy who only cares about himself.”

First: Wow, that’s really terrible dialogue.

But second: THAT’S BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT HE IS!

Why is there a swimming pool right over a nuclear reactor?

The guys who were trying to escape in the sewer ball thingy (which I can only assume must be called the Bat-Turd)… I honestly can’t even tell if Damian killed them, but, well, he probably did.

Here, observe Damian’s much-vaunted “character arc” in a nutshell:

First: OK, it’s not like all of the dialogue is this horrifically stilted, it just seems to twist itself into knots any time the book is trying to make excuses for Damian. I wonder why.

Second and more importantly: This is not real character development. Yes, he has apparently successfully refrained from being as terrible as he otherwise might have been. Not only is that not particularly impressive, it’s meaningless and unearned.

Wow, check out this character who everyone fawns over for being an animal lover casually crushing a random bat to death for no reason.
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Batwing: 2 issues from 2011
Writer: Judd Winick
OK, I have a serious problem: In the first two issues, it literally never says what country it’s taking place in. The wiki says it’s the Democratic Republic of the Congo, though I’m not sure how I was supposed to figure that out since the only location referenced is Tinasha, a city which is, as far as I can tell, fictional. Did they even know what country it was, or did Winick start writing with nothing to go on but “Nonspecifically Africa?”

That said, I’m otherwise enjoying this so far. Expecting this series to be one of the closest things to a highlight in this lineup.
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Oracle: Year One came up in conversation elsewhere, and I felt like rereading it. I think I already discussed it in a review here, but it’s really good, hence the reread. 1,318.

Batwoman: 3 issues from 2011
Writer: J.H. Williams III
Oh, this is really good. And I might just be saying that because the art is pretty, but I’m enjoying the story too.
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Birds of Prey 2011: 2 issues from 2011
Writer: Duane Swierczynski
Oh, my poor favorite series. This is just… unrelated to the thing I actually like, and not really interesting in its own right. Also, everyone but Dinah is really annoying, and even Dinah is blander than usual.
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Catwoman: 2 issues from 2011
Writer: Judd Winick
It’s possible that Winick just has an extremely limited reserve of talent and can only spend it on one series at a time. This is a mess.
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Detective Comics 2011 #2 from 2011
Writer: Tony S. Daniel
The first issue of this already broke me, but here’s the second for some reason.

What’s with the Batbooks around this time and people losing their faces? This is happening with bizarre frequency. Like, Jane Doe, the villain from Batman: Unseen, Professor Pyg’s Dollotrons when you try to take their masks off, Flamingo’s victims, Hush, and now the Joker. It’s weird.

Veritable hurricane of forgettable civilian love interests in this New 52 wave of titles, too.
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Nightwing: 2 issues from 2011
Writer: Kyle Higgins
This costume is unforgivable.

Also good to see that Dick is the absolute, rock-bottom worst at secret identities.

Otherwise, this is readable, though it’s obviously building up to the clumsy retcons about Dick’s backstory that unnecessarily weirded it up. Not ideal.
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Red Hood and the Outlaws: 2 issues from 2011
Writer: Scott Lobdell
Oh god.

I mean, like, all of the complaints about this have been made to death and back, but it definitely sucks. The whole book has this wafting stench of dudebro. This portrayal and, frankly, its fans are the reason I used to hate Jason Todd.
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Batman Odyssey 2011 #1 from 2011
Writer: Neal Adams
I don’t understand anything anymore.
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Batgirl: 10 issues from 2011
Writer: Gail Simone
The Mirror arc… I’m having a hard time parsing what point it’s trying to make. It seems to be trying to yell at people who are upset about losing Oracle via a strawman who has a grudge against “miracles,” I guess. But that… doesn’t really address the actual problems. So maybe it’s not trying to make a meta point and is just a thing? But in any case, it’s a weird thing.

Aw, hell. And the next arc, after making like maybe an issue’s worth of an attempt at being passable, then dumps all over the hospital scene from Oracle: Year One (which is a brilliant scene where Ostrander and Yale tear The Killing Joke apart in one page). In a way that Bruce Wayne: The Road Home already did, granted, but that was just Marc Andreyko’s… unique relationship with continuity. This has got to be a deliberate retcon.

I could write an essay on everything that’s wrong with the new hospital scene. In fact, I did, because my rant here was getting away from me.

Argh.

And we follow this up with Bruce saying “You were always meant to be Batgirl, Barbara,” so that’s a nice little “■■■■ you” to Oracle, Cass, and I guess Steph.


OH MY GOD, BABS ATE CASS

In all seriousness, I really don’t want to hear from this thing about “the real Batgirl.” That’s just a deliberate insult.

The thing about people calling her “Batwoman” and her correcting them “Batgirl” is just… kind of weird? I’m not sure what that’s supposed to be accomplishing. Is she proud of being junior to a much less experienced hero?

Rando henchman being one of the guys from The Killing Joke is pretty incredible too. “Incredible” in a “this is a really stupid coincidence” way. The revelation at the end that he felt guilty and wound up being the one to call the cops isn’t horrible, though, even if it makes his still working for a crazy killer villain kind of questionable. Plus, I’d have had Babs do it herself. But this whole book is kind of allergic to her having any agency, so that’s pretty par for the course.

I’m trying to figure out what actual point it’s trying to make about gentrification. Alysia, who I think we’re supposed to like, seems to hate Bruce’s reconstruction plan from over in Snyder’s Batman, but then holds up this Carnes person who’s a not-so-secret serial killer as doing it “the right way.” Are we… supposed to agree and consider this moral ambiguity on Bruce’s part? Be impressed by Carnes’ (subtle naming, by the way) PR skills, even though she got accused of murdering her own parents on national television? Or think Alysia has no clue what she’s talking about? Preachy is one thing, but I’d like to have some clue what you’re preaching.

“Knightfall” (Why that name? It’s confusing.) is about the thousandth generic homicidal rival vigilante. Not even remotely the first with a religious motif – how about that glowy guy from Tomasi’s arc of Batman and Robin right before Flashpoint? How about Michael Lane when he went postal in that terrible Judgment on Gotham arc? You’ll note two other things those arcs have in common: Being very recent when this came out and sucking.

“Show some I.D., I’ll get you a beer.” No way is Babs young enough to even pass for under twenty-one. Not a chance. I mean, I guess it’s just supposed to be a snarky way of pressing for her identity, but it’s still out-of-place.

I love how James Jr. has become a magical font of evil that complete randos know is bad news just looking at him. Again, even as a kid. On top of scaring Barbara Sr. away for years by killing a cat when he was ten, this is just getting ridiculous.
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Batman #12 from 2012
Writers: Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV
Fine issue, I guess. Just the only one I hadn’t read from this year, sandwiched between a couple events (because Snyder’s run is ALL BIG ACTION-PACKED EVENTS ALL THE TIME). I don’t think I find Harper Row quite as compelling as Snyder and Tynion do, but she doesn’t, like, bother me or anything. She’s just sort of there.
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Batman: The Dark Knight: 11 issues from 2012
Writers: Paul Jenkins (5 issues) David Finch (co-plotter on 4 issues), Joe Harris (1 issue), Gregg Hurwitz (5 issues)
Weird to have the Flash butting into this, especially given how he’s completely useless.

This is one of those books where it feels like barely anything happens in an issue. I guess we’re kinda spotlighting one villain at a time as this, uh, anti-fear toxin affects them, but not in a way that really says anything about them. And it’s not like this concept is all that new. Take the premise of “Never Fear” from The New Batman Adventures, restructure it to be a clone of the original Hush arc (masked villain who is obviously secretly one of Bruce Wayne’s friends, with the assistance of Scarecrow, sics several members of Batman’s rogues gallery on him in turn, but it turns out that the real mastermind is a third party who is also an established villain), and then don’t replicate anything that was interesting about either of those, and you have this.

After his very earliest appearances, Bane never or almost never (I can’t guarantee it didn’t happen in something I haven’t read, but I don’t recall it happening anytime after Knightfall in the Post-Crisis stuff I’ve read) used Venom again, so it annoys me when adaptations just make ‘roid rage his whole schtick. And now canon is doing it.

You’ll notice I’m barely mentioning White Rabbit. That’s because she’s really not interesting. Her power doesn’t have anything to do with her gimmick, and personality-wise, all she’s got going is talking in innuendo. And her costume is absurd.

So, you have one arc about a toxin that makes people irrationally violent. Then the next arc begins with a crime scene where a bunch of civilians killed each other for no apparent reason. Cue a bunch of melodramatics about “How could this possibly have happened?! It wasn’t a supervillain this time!” Uh, guys, it was probably a supervillain.

Oh, hey, yet another Forgettable Civilian Love Interest™! Bruce didn’t even properly break up with the last one yet.

Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, there was a TV show called The New Batman Adventures. And it said “What if we made the Scarecrow edgy?” And it sorta worked. Like ten years later, there was a video game called Arkham Asylum. And it said “What if we made the Scarecrow even edgier?” And it really worked. Afterwards, there was everyone under the freaking sun. And they all said “What if we keep making the Scarecrow edgier until everyone gets sick of him?” And that… happened, anyway. And then Arkham Knight was like “Hold my beer,” but that was later.”

That said, I actually am enjoying Hurwitz’s stuff a bit more than Jenkins and Finch (well, Finch is still doing the art but not the writing). Some of it gets pretentious in that way that most Scarecrow stories are, but other parts are really compelling, like the scenes with Batman and the little girl or, well, the scenes with Scarecrow and the other little girl. Even Scarecrow’s new backstory, while pretty over-the-top (and basically suggesting that he is the way he is because his father had the exact same obsessions, thus begging the question of why Dad Crane was like that), is sort of fitting.

It is odd that after we just got done with an arc which heavily involved the Scarecrow, we get another Scarecrow story with no apparent connection to the previous one.
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Kazar the savage has gone from an 80s tv drama to something like the Gil Gerard BUCK ROGERS or maybe a classic Doug McClure COMETtv cornball monster flick. There’s androids and winged warriors and mythical creatures and everyone’s sportin a leopard print swimsuit. I’m gobsmacked, and I like it. MEANWHILE on the current print books side…There’s two I really wanna gush about. The SWAMP THING and the FLASH. Both had issues out this month and both totally cemented my love for the directions both books were going. I’ll type out a more elaborate gush later, right now ol Ka and Shanna are cruisin down the river Styx with a robot and a etc,etc,etc…

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Oh snap! Charon’s a robot, too! What the whattin WHAT!?

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Ok, one last quickie recommend before the night ends…so GUILLEM MARCH, does some wicked Batman stuff? the new Joker book? that guy…he’s really good, does cool stuff. But if you wanna see what this cat can REALLY DO, check out KARMEN. HOLY…CRAP…He does it all on this book, and be forewarned, there’s alot of nudity but its so honest and goes with the story and isnt just some gratuitous t’n’a. The story itself(im on issue 3) is so heartbreakin beautiful and the ART!, I can’t think of another book where I saw a picture, a scene shot, and said " I wanna go to that place". Amazing stuff. Google it. It’s out in print, natch, or if you’re all in digital I couldnt get it from the COMIXOLOGY app, but it was on the main website. My favorite of the week and its been a solid week.

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updated

Batman and Robin: 12 issues from 2012-2013
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Oh god. I accidentally opened #7 instead of #3 and it took a disturbingly long time to notice the difference.

guys the dialogue is so bad

“I’m sure you didn’t leave your hole tonight thinking you’d get your ass kicked by a ten-year-old!”

A+ banter.

Was Tomasi always this stilted and I’m only noticing it because I was annoyed at this book by default? Or is this new?

Hey, “reactive vs. proactive” posturing! That doesn’t mean anything!

So, this “Nobody” guy is just another self-righteous killer vigilante? I mean, that’s a useful archetype for Batman villains, actually, but everyone wants to introduce a new one and most of them don’t have anything to make them stand out.

“Admit it–your circus show’s squandered amazing resources to uphold some self-serving moral code that isn’t viable!”

Holy crap just try to say that out loud.

I just- I need to apologize to Marv Wolfman and Alan Grant and Larry Hama and every other writer I’ve ever made fun of for bad dialogue. Forgive me my sins; I didn’t know how good I had it.

Famous animal lover Damian crushes a firefly for no reason now. Boy, I can tell how secretly heroic he is. Glad Tomasi was here to sell me on him.

Oh, sorry. I wrote that too soon.

He crushes two fireflies. Sadistic little creep, ain’t he?

I’m not really worried about the cliffhanger where Damian might be about to kill somebody because he’s already killed three people and expressed a wish to do so again.

The dramatic backstory of Bruce and Morgan is pretty underwhelming. I guess the point is that Bruce tried to kill him, but aside from yelling, and I quote, “RAGHKILLYOUUU!” in the middle of the fight, he, uh, didn’t do much and didn’t have much real reason to kill him. And Morgan is fine now. So, like, what’s the big secret?

“You try to murder my son, and expect to live?!”

Uh, Bruce? You, uh, you remember the Joker, right?

Oop, there’s kill number four. “Influenced” Morgan right through the forehead. Probably Talia’s fault somehow.

Though to be fair, Nobody got killed by Damian in this arc, so I’m not sure if that counts.

And again, what’s with all the guilt and histrionics? Damian has already killed numerous people, you morons! You should have expected this! Won’t someone think of the Spook?

The “Damian runs around beating up all the other Robins to assert dominance” arc may be creeping up on being the most absolutely infuriatingly stupid arc I’ve ever read.

So, in the first issue, Tim is made into a ridiculous strawman even though a lot of the things he’s saying objectively do make sense even despite the book’s attempts to make him the bad guy. “I’d say killing could be your specialty,” says the kid whose body count keeps going up when Tim’s is sitting at a comfortable zero. But Tim says really stupid things like “I believe in every choice I’ve made” which is demonstrably not something that’s ever been true of him, just to make Damian look better by comparison. All the whole interaction proves is that Tim is better than Damian.

We get reference to the incumbent Dumbest Arc Ever (Death in the Family – it’s so bad, guys) when Damian decides to taunt Jason by leaving a bloody crowbar in his bed, because this kid is just classy like that.

But Nightwing. After Damian has been physically attacking his brothers for no ■■■■■■■ reason, what does Nightwing do about this situation? Why, the same thing everyone always does any time Damian does something wrong, of course.

HE GIVES HIM EXACTLY WHAT HE WANTS AND PATS HIM ON THE BACK.

I cannot emphasize enough how Damian’s whole history is an aggressive and wholehearted endorsement of entitlement, nepotism, egomania, violence, and, frankly, really shitty parenting on the part of DC’s writers.

(Sidenote, I couldn’t care less about this “Terminus” guy or his extremely silly henchmen. We do get another bout of “Batman has stupid power armor that you’d think he’d be using all the time,” though, so that’s annoying.)

Moving along to #0, and holy ■■■■ that’s thirteen more for the body count. It almost feels unfair to count them. Almost. Seventeen total.
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Batwing: 11 issues from 2012
Writer: Judd Winick
The problem with this book finally mentioning what country it’s taking place in is that I’m now trying to compare the history it establishes with the Democratic Republic of Congo’s actual history, and it, like, doesn’t match. At all. I mean, Masika Okura could be a loose fictional stand-in for Joseph Mobutu, but the circumstances and timing of his fall from power don’t really match.

We seem to be zeroing on a reveal of who Massacre is. My working theory has been that it’s Isaac and we’ve got yet another evil sibling running around. We just shot down the Keita red herring (which was left dangling too long on too little evidence to be for real).

And… Yup!

OK, so I’m making fun of this, but there’s a lot to like here. It’s a pretty engaging book. It’s especially fairly impressive that it manages to run on a cast of largely new characters and still feel like it fits.
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Batwoman: 12 issues from 2012
Writers: J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman
This is one of those books where I would happily frame any random page and hang it on my wall.

Hm. OK, maybe not a page from the part where a teenaged girl getting beaten into a coma and gutted is intercut with one of the more explicit sex scenes I’ve seen in a comic. That’s a… curious juxtaposition. I probably wouldn’t have blinked at either scene if they’d happened in sequence instead of simultaneously, but the way it’s framed sure is a choice.

And… huh again. Better huh this time. You know, I’ve been totally spacing on the fact that Maggie Sawyer has a daughter until this brought it up (by implication, anyway). (I mean, that’s partially because Rucka and Brubaker seemed to space on the subject when they were writing Gotham Central, but still.)

Perfectly bulletproof costumes on ostensibly nonpowered characters are getting to be a bit of an annoyance for me.

OK, I still don’t necessarily dislike this book. It’s still probably my favorite of the New 52 Batbooks. But this “Drown the World” arc is wearing out its welcome. The anachronic order doesn’t really add very much beyond some needless confusion, and while some of the “monsters” could be interesting villains in their own right, deploying them as a big ensemble means only a couple of them get much time to do anything. Cool to see Chase being important again, though.

The Wonder Woman crossover found the most efficient possible way to get on my bad side by referring to her good origin as a “myth” on the very first page. It’s also indulging in the Violent Sociopath Diana stuff which I’d heard was a recurring problem in the New 52 but didn’t actually observe in her own title. And we’re really hammering hard on her awful New 52 daughter-of-Zeus origin.
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I’m really loving the idea of Quantum Leap starring the Flash. I’ve got good feelings about this run.

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The newest ish, when he’s chattin it up with[ ]in the future, and [ ] says things get better, got me. Thats when I felt that FINALLY, WALLY IS BACK. and,yeah, I misted up a spell, no shame, heh heh.

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There was a sorta same bit in the new SWAMPY. A moment where the story just clicked and everything about where the character was going just felt right.Last week was a good week for awesome books.

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Uh oh! On the last page of KIRBY’S last MACHINE MAN ish, #9, there’s a blurb sayin the story will continue in the INCREDIBLE HULK. Now that tale also intersects with some leftover DEFENDERS character AND QUASAR( who at the last was still Marvel Boy) before he heads off to MARVEL 2IN1 to chill at Project Pegasus. This is what happens when,like, 80% of their new books are either another Venom event tie-ins or X-whatever, and neither really float the boat.Down the ol Marvel rabbit hole I goes…

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Birds of Prey: 11 issues from 2012
Writer: Duane Swierczynski
I have so little to say about most of this. It’s sort of impressive, in a weird way. It’s so committed to being mysterious that there’s not really any material information on the plot or any particular insight into the characters even this far into it. The Choke plot drags on for seven issues and doesn’t even resolve itself before suddenly shifting gears to something else. And in a book that was historically highly character-driven, we have less than zero insight into any of the protagonists. Even figuring out who some of them even are takes more than a year.

Every single protagonist knows good and well that they’re fighting a guy with mind control/brainwashing abilities, and yet they constantly just sort of forget that fact so they can have drama about it. Like, finding out that they or someone else was being mind controlled somehow manages to come as a complete surprise every time.

And, um, Black Canary can fly now? What? What?

So finding Choke gets interrupted by people trying to kill Dinah over whatever her dumb new backstory is, only for that to get interrupted by the Night of the Owls tie-in, only for that to get interrupted by leaving to help Ivy deal with something that I think happened to her in the first arc, only for that to get interrupted by Ivy revealing that she was manipulating them all along and they have to go beat up some corporations for her or she’ll kill everyone in the world (Poison Ivy, famous sympathetic anti-hero), only for that to get interrupted when they just suddenly have an antidote, only for their recovery to get interrupted by randos with knives stealing Katana’s katana, only for them to get interrupted by a rando in a bird suit stealing Katana’s katana from the people who stole Katana’s katana from Katana!

CAN YOU PLEASE JUST FOCUS ON ONE THING?!
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Catwoman: 10 issues from 2012
Writers: Judd Winick (9 issues), Ann Nocenti (1 issue)
Hey, wait a second, why didn’t Selina get an ugly costume redesign with unnecessary lines and armor plates all over it? She just still has the decent-if-a-little-bland Darwyn Cooke design. I feel like she got cheated out of a fashion disaster.

Anyway, this book seems to have its mind buried pretty deep in the gutter. I’m not really offended, I just can’t really shake the sense that it was written one-handed.

Hey, wait a second. This new detective guy, Alvarez? His backstory is ripped off from Josie Mac (not the metahuman bit, but the “bad tip coincidentally leads successful detective to burst in on somebody important with a prostitute, thus leading to successful detective’s reassignment to a less dignified position” bit). And I’d call that coincidence except Winick also created Josie Mac, so he’s ripping himself off.

You know what’s really distracting? The FREAKY GIANT EYES Guillem March draws Selina with. It’s like she’s three seconds from going on a murder spree at all times. Which isn’t helped by the writing as she runs around slinging guns and biting off ears.

There’s also the idea that Batman literally just looks the other way about her, you know, being a thief (and even actively shielded her from the police) because they’re having sex. Like, you’d think the book would want to distance itself from that idea, not spell it out explicitly. It’s pretty unflattering for both of them.

Now, relative to the 2002 series, I did miss Catwoman actually stealing things. I just don’t like anything else that’s going on.

So, Pre-Flashpoint stuff had Professor Pyg, who turns people into “Dollotrons.” Detective Comics at this point has that guy Dollmaker, and I’m not sure what his deal is yet but I assume it’s something to do with making dolls. And then here we’ve got Dollhouse, who is also chopping people up and making them into dolls.

#0 gives Selina… Jason Todd’s backstory, weirdly. “Miss Oliver” is just Ma Gunn. And in general is a time-hopping (in the sense of excessive flashing back and forward, not actual time travel, which is mercifully absent from even these books) exercise in needless confusion.
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Detective Comics: 13 issues from 2012-2013
Writers: Tony S. Daniel (10 issues), James Tynion IV (backup in 2 issues), Gregg Hurwitz (1 issue), John Layman (2 issues)
Oh.

Oh, man.

I can’t believe I’ve never made a “more like Defective Comics” joke in this thread.

Anyway, I know I harp on characters being the same as other characters but no, seriously, Dollmaker’s henchman Jack-in-the-Box is just Ragdoll, right? Same powers and vague jester theme?

This book is so boring. Like, there were arcs, where things happened, but I just… don’t really care. I guess I should be making fun of the Forgettable Civilian Love Interest™ having an evil twin or Hugo Strange suddenly having a son or the nonsense science in the Mister Toxic arc, but, like, I don’t actually care?

I will say that while Black Mask has found myriad ways to not be interesting (not that he hasn’t been pretty solid sometimes, he’s just really hit-and-miss), his weird psychic powers and circus theme have got to be up there.

Anyway, Layman’s stuff is shaping up to be bett- oh scratch that, Damian’s here

“Ivy isn’t evil. Just misguided.” Bro, she just tried to cause the apocalypse. We passed “not evil, just misguided” years ago.
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