Personal Issues 1 – Yeah, I’m Biased. It’s Batman
Hello, everybody, and welcome to the first installment of Personal Issues. In this new bi-weekly series of articles I will be outlining some comics that I have read. I could be talking about individual issues, story arcs, whole series, one shots, anything that I have been reading and want to talk about. While I will be reviewing old and newer stuff, I’m going to try to not review stuff that is less than a month old unless it’s a big deal. I will also not be talking about any series in these articles that I talk about on the podcast. This is for comics that weren’t picked by BovieWan, Stephen, or me to discuss on the podcast but that I still felt like talking about. I will probably be spoiling the fuck out of most things I talk about, so keep that in mind when reading these articles.
One year ago, DC launched the New 52. We reviewed all of them and overall it was a pretty good launch. Now DC is marking first anniversary of their relaunch with Zero Month. Throughout September they will be releasing zero issues for all of there series. Some of these zero issues will mark the end of a series, some are one shots, and some mark the beginnings of new series. In this article I will be looking at my top and bottom three for the first two weeks of Zero Month. These won’t ordered best to worst. The first three issues I write about are the ones I liked, the last three are the ones I didn’t like. So, let’s start this bitch off with:
Batman and Robin
I’ve said time and time again my thoughts on Damian Wayne. Mainly that he is an egotistic sociopath that desperately needs to beaten readily about the face and neck by Zur-En-Arrh Batman. But the one thing I have never been able to dispute is the fact that he is pretty badass. While he isn’t my favorite Robin, Damian is probably the most skilled Robin, having been trained his entire life by Talia Al Ghul, daughter of Ra’s Al Ghul and I think in this continuity she is leading the League of Assassins. And that’s the story this issues tells. The origin of Damian Wayne leading up to when he first meets Batman.
The best part of this story for me is showing Damian when he is very young. His mother did force him to go through all the training or get murdered, he had his own reason for training and I think it is a pretty believable one: Damian wants to know who his dad is. The comic shows him at like age three or something sword fighting with Talia and he asks who his father. Talia tells him that when he can beat her in a fight on his birthday she will tell him. So that’s why he trains. To meet his father. And how does he train? Well, he breaks boards, paints pictures, practices sharpshooting, decapitates a goddamn tiger, harpoons a shark through the fucking head while underwater, and jumps out of an airplane while shooting dudes then takes his swords and cuts the wings off of a motherfucking mutant ninja bat! This kid is fucking awesome!
But taking it back to young Damian, the moment that sold the issue for me is the image above. Damian just got his ass whooped and is told the deal. He goes inside, looks in a chest and finds an old Batman cowl. He puts it on and we get that glorious panel. It was right then that I was like, “You know what, you’re not half bad, Damian.” It’s just really cute and shows just how far this kid has come from those days. Could you see Damian doing that shit now? Fuck no. That’s what I love about it. It is so out of character for Damian but I still feel it fits into his life really well.
The art is pretty good, too. It shows the action scenes very well and really makes the mutant bat ninjas look menacing. But their is one moment that I think the art kind of failed. It was immediately after the perfection of “Look, I’m a bat.” Talia is showing him a huge model of the world on the floor and explaining to Damian how he will one day rule it. They do a close up shot of Talia and Damian, and Damian looks kind of dead. Well, not dead, but he doesn’t look all there. It kind of weirds me out whenever I look at it.
Batman and Robin issue 0 is a really great that made me warm up to Damian as a character a little bit more. I still want Zur-En-Arrh to beat the fucker with a piece of pipe, but I’ll like him a bit more while it’s happening.
Well will you look at that. Another Batman book in my favorites. This time, though, instead of looking at the an origin to a different member of the Bat family, we get a look at The Bat himself. But while he is fighting crime, he isn’t Batman yet. This is a look at some pre-Batman vigilantism that we don’t get to see very often.
The issue starts out with a bank robbery by the Red Hood gang. The leader tosses a gun to Red Hood 5 (that’s actually what he calls him) and tries to get him to shoot the hostages. Unfortunately, this is actually Batman and he fucked up, catching the gun with his right hand while Red Hood 5 is left-handed. This is something that I feel we don’t get to see very often: Batman fucking up. It happened in Batman: Earth One and it was one of the things that I loved about that series. Batman didn’t just become the world’s greatest everything. He had to work for it and sometimes, in his formative years as a vigilante, he made mistakes.
So after he fucks that up and scampers off, we find that he isn’t living in Wayne Manor anymore, but a brownstone in Gotham’s worst district. Right along Crime Alley, where his parents were killed, no less. This whole scene, which I’ll finish after this, makes a certain amount of sense. The whole reason Bruce is doing any of this is because of what happened on that night. So being close to the spot they died, being close to what drives him to do what he does, makes sense. When he gets back to the brownstone, he says that Bruce Wayne is only a mask, which again makes sense. At this point he is throwing himself fully into being a vigilante, so the only reason Bruce Wayne is still in any kind of public eye is to fund his new hobby.
But my favorite bit for the main story is when Jim Gordon shows up. He talks to Bruce about some illegal things he thinks are happening at Wayne Enterprises, which at this point is being run by Philip Kane, and about a vigilante that has been spotted around the area. He says that he doesn’t think Bruce knows anything, but we all know he does. This goes back to an idea that was brought up in Hush, and probably elsewhere, where Batman says that Gordon is too good of a cop to not know that Bruce is Batman. This scene reinforces that idea, and I really enjoy.
The one thing in this story that is cool but kind of worries me a bit is the Red Hood gang. If you know your Batman, then you know that one of the Joker’s origin stories is that he was a supervillain called The Red Hood. In this story, the leader of the Red Hoods is always smiling, laughing, cracking jokes and killing people in really gruesome ways. To me, he is almost certainly the Joker pre-chemicals. This is really cool. The Red Hood never takes off his mask, so we never know what he looks like, and that is smart move on Snyder’s part. By never showing what the Joker looked like before, you don’t run the risk of pissing someone off. But the end of the issue says that this story will continue in 2013, so there is still some room to fuck something up. Snyder is too good of a writer with Batman to do that, but it’s still a possibility.
The art is fantastic, as always. Greg Capullo is one of my favorite artists, and his work on Batman has been fantastic.
But that’s not all there is in this issue. I won’t talk too much about because this section is getting pretty long, but there is a secondary story showing the lighting of the Bat signal for the first time. The story jumps around to show what Dick Grayson, Tim Drake, and Jason Todd were doing when the signal hit the cloudy skies of Gotham. Dick was stopping a purse snatcher and cracking jokes the whole time. Jason was in a bad place, robbed a store and beat a guy to near death after the guy shot a woman. Tim was getting the principal of his prep school arrested for stealing funds from the school and being a complete dick about it all. All three of these stories work with what I know about the characters and were really good. There was also a bit at the end with Barbara Gordon looking at the signal from the roof of the police station, which was cool.
The art would have to be my only complaint about it. There’s a lot of cross-hatching on everybody and it looks kind bad at points. But the story more than makes up for the art.
Batman issue 0 is great look at the early days of Batman, as well as the early days of some of the members of the Bat family. Scott Snyder’s writing is great, Greg Capullo’s art is great, and the second story is great. Definitely check this book out.
Huh, another Batman series. Some might say I’m biased towards the Bat, but to those people I say, “Fuck yeah, I’m biased. It’s the goddamn Batman.” Batman is one of my favorite characters, and I love his stuff. Yeah there’s some shit in his pantheon, but most of the New 52 Batman stories I’ve read have been great and this one is no exception.
This issue happens during Bruce’s round the world training montage. 10 years prior to everything that’s been happening, Bruce goes to visit Zen-Buddhist Monk Warrios Shihan Matsuda to complete his training. He is accepted and begins training. Throughout the training, Bruce is getting conflicting messages thrown at him. Matsuda is telling him to throw away his emotions, that Bruce is destined to “soar like a god” and emotions would only hinder his progress. Matsuda’s wife, on the other hand, keeps saying that emotions shouldn’t be repressed. That he should embrace his emotion so that he can be whole. While all this is happening, he is getting the hots for a girl who works at a shop in town. One night, he gives in to his emotions and something terrible happens. This is the point where Bruce sees that in order to be Batman, he can’t let his emotions get in the way. It was a really smart way for the writer Gregg Hurwitz to get that idea across, and I liked it.
The art by Tony S. Daniel is pretty good. There are some moments where I felt there were just too many lines and cross hatching on the characters faces, but there are some really excellent scenes with Bruce. Daniel draws his face in a way so that the shadows make a cowl for him. It kind of reminds of Todd McFarlane, and I do enjoy his artwork sometimes. Bruce’s face, and the final page of the story, are the best pieces of art in this issue.
Like Batman issue 0, there’s a second story. This one is showing some of what Alfred has been going through in Bruce’s absence. While Bruce was gone the lawyer of the Kane family has been dropping by Wayne Manor regularly. Martha Wayne’s maiden is Kane, and the Kane family has been trying to get their hands on Wayne Manor and the Wayne fortune for years. Apparently, they aren’t exactly the nicest of people. They keep sending over this sniveling little shit of a lawyer to try to get Alfred to admit that Bruce is dead and give the house over to the Kanes.
The art during the opening scenes with Alfred the Kane family’s lawyer, Mr. Shaw, has some fantastic art in it. Shaw is almost drawn like a supervillain, with a big evil smile on his face and an evil look in his eye. There’s on particularly great panel where his face is hidden in the shadows and all you see are his eyes and his smile.
Alfred through all of this just looks haggard. He’s had to deal with pretty much the entire world saying the boy he raised since the age of 10 or something is dead, and it’s had its toll on him. The wrinkles on his face are much more pronounced, his clothes don’t look that great, he can’t even keep his hair in the right place, and he just looks tired. So very tired and sad. As the scene with Shaw continues we can see him getting angrier, and when Bruce shows up again, you can see the look on his face change to shock and relief.
Detective Comics issue 0 is another great Batman origin story with some really great looking panels in the first story and great art overall in the second story.
Now we move on to latter half of this article and the issues I thought were shit. Let’s dive right into it with:
I said it when the series first launched, but Dial H was and continues to be my favorite series in the Second Wave. The idea behind it all of a magical device that turns any asshole who uses it into a random super person to do whatever they want is really cool. But what makes it a great story for me is showing how the people use these powers and what effect those powers have their everyday lives. They follow that idea in Dial H and in H.E.R.O. from 2002, which I also really liked. What Dial H issue 0 does, however, is give us more details about how the H-Dial works.
Back in some ancient time, a monster is terrorizing a kingdom. The priestess or queen or whatever the fuck she is finds a sundial and figures out how to use it, turning her into Bumper Carla. Now there’s the first problem. This is ancient times. Bumper cars haven’t even been conceived yet. Why the fuck is there a bumper car themed superheroine? And another thing. As she was transforming into Bumper Carla, she turned into three other heroes first. That’s not how I’ve ever seen the Dial work. You dial HERO, there’s a flash of light or a puff of smoke or something and your a hero. You don’t cycle through a bunch of them and then just land on one. Anyway, she defeats the monster and all is hunky-dory.
Flash forward a few years, the lady is queen now or still or whatever, I don’t care, and they have a prisoner who they think is an assassin. Then Bumper Carla shows up… Wait, what? Yes, it turns out that the Dial gives people powers and costumes and identities and shit by stealing them from people in alternate dimensions… That’s fucking stupid. For one thing it means that there is a world consisting entirely of suicidal depressives, but it is so stupid. With something as mysterious and magical as the H-Dial, never explain anything. You can only ruin it. I don’t even want to talk about the rest of the story, anymore, so let’s talk about the art.
It’s not great. Everyone has pretty much the same face, the set pieces are kinda bleh, and at one point the main lady makes a face similar to Mary Marvel’s from Countdown while she rubbing up against the H-Dial.
Dial H issue 0 is a really stupid issue that can’t hold a candle to the main book.
The Phantom Stranger
The Phantom Stranger is Judas. I don’t even feel like I should say anything more than that. Before, the Stranger was just that, a stranger. Nothing definitive was said, and everything was told vaguely. This story, while it doesn’t come right out and say it, isn’t nearly vague enough.
The issue start with a man in a cell. He is then brought to the Rock of Eternity to the Council of Wizards along with Pandora and Vic Sage, The Question. Three of them are dubbed the Trinity of Sin. The Stranger begs forgiveness but then gets silver coins thrown in his face, which he says remind him of his greatest sin. Who the fuck else are we supposed to think he is? He admits his greatest sin was betraying his best friend. Of course he’s fucking Judas.
Anyway, he is sent to Earth, given a magical cloak that gives him some powers, and wonders the globe. When it gets to modern times, he is called. He goes to a cop who is looking for his girlfriend or something. The Stranger ends up getting him killed and he becomes the Spectre. One of the Stranger’s coins falls off his necklace and he goes right back to wondering.
The question this all brings up is why did the Stranger need to get involved. If God or whoever wanted this guy as the Spectre, they could have waited a day or two. He was probably going to get himself killed. The Stranger wasn’t needed. It was all really stupid.
The art was okay, though.
The Phantom Stranger issue 0 has some decent art but ruins the mystery of a really interesting character and his redemption is just doing terrible things. It’s not that great.
This is the issue that I dislike the least. It has cool scene Superman scene near the end and has a decent idea, there are just one or two things that I can’t really wrap my head around and the art isn’t that great.
The story in this issue is called The Boy Who Stole Superman’s Cape, and it’s about exactly what it sounds like. A kid takes Superman’s cape. Superman was confronting some criminals and then was blown up by some dudes in animal masks with a rocket launcher. I’m not even sure why they were wearing animal masks or where the rocket launcher came from in the first place.
Anyway, Clark goes down and a passing kid who saw him survive an RPG to the face decides to jack his cape. He goes home, where his abusive alcoholic of a father is beating his mother and brother. The kids tells him stops, so the dad grabs a knife and tries to stab him. The knife breaks on the cape and the kid punches him in the gut, knocking him on his ass and making him throw up. Now, this kid is very young and kind of scrawny looking. The dad is much bigger and has some flab to him to absorb the blow. How the hell did that kid get the strength to punch the guy so hard he vomited? Some of you may say that since he was drunk he would have lost balance and threw up, but no. The panel shows the kid punching him so hard the guy’s feet come off the ground. Did the cape give him super strength?
Moving along, the kid takes his brother and runs away, leaving his mother beaten and alone with a man who would stab his own kid. They try to run but the dad catches up with them at the railroad tracks. The kid with the cape gets his foot stuck in the tracks just as a train is coming to hit him and the dad forces the other kid to watch. Then Superman shows up and saves the kid. He tells the kid that “that bully” will never hurt him again and runs away. Keep in mind, Superman did nothing about the dad. He’s still there, drunk as fuck pissed off.
While all this is happening, Lois and Jimmy are across the streets from the railroad tracks, watching everything. Just watching. Not looking for help, not saying “Hey, what are you doing?” or even “Stop.” They just stand their as kids are being abused, waiting for something interesting to happen so they can get a story.
Going back a bit, while the kids were still running, we see Clark getting his apartment. Mrs. Nyxly, his landlord, is welcoming him to the building and telling him about her husband, the magician Mr. Triple X who always wore an old style purple derby hat.
Did you catch that? They turned Mr. Mxyzptlk, a fifth dimensional being that can warp reality to his will, into a dead stage magician. Where is the logic in that.
The art in the book isn’t terrific. Everyone spends the book either looking really old or looking really Asian. I know that kind of sounds racist, but it’s not. That’s just how the characters look from time to time.
Action Comics issue 0 has an interesting idea with the kid learning to stand up to his abusive father with the help of Superman’s cape, but there are just so many little things that bug me about the issue that I couldn’t enjoy it at all.
Well, that does it for the first Personal Issues. Hopefully you guys managed to make it through it and enjoyed what you read. In two weeks I will be back with the rest of Zero Month. Until then, let me know in the forums or the comments below what you thought of the article or this series in general.