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Published March 7, 2013

Don’t like Batman spoilers?

Concerned with what’s happening in the Batman arc?

Well shut the laptop, make yourself a tea and reflect on the little things that make you happy, because SPOILERS.

SPOILERS, dammit.

But for those of you here for the review, let’s get rockin’.

Holy hell. As a Batman fan without the loose change needed to keep up with the series, it was only fairly recently that I learned that Batman even had a son. Though I didn’t really support the choices involved with Damian Wayne, any pal of Batman’s is a pal of mine. Damian Wayne went from scrappy annoying bat-brat into fearless crusader of justice, picking up where his dad left off with half the brooding and twice the exposed skin, which put him in my good books with a green tick next to his name.

And now…

Damian Wayne is dead.

Dead.

And this comic deals with the fallout….or at least should.

This issue throws Batman against Oswald Cobblepot, better known as the criminal kingpin The Penguin, and Bats seems to be punching his agony away. In true Batman form he barely seems to acknowledge the death, with only a page and a half pencilled in to inform the reader that he was sad, or indeed that any sadness had happened.

In more than one way I’m incredibly disappointed that this is the following comic: Batman is shown dramatically gripping the tattered remains of Damian’s costume in the cover, however in the true fashion of misleading comic covers the death is barely mentioned and more importantly, affects the story in no way at all.

Sigh.

The character DIED.

HIS SON DIED.

First thing he is shown doing is wailing on Arkham inmates and barking threats at Penguin.

Come on team, give him a couple fifths of vodka and a dark, dusty room, and let the man cry. I mean, I know he is The Batman, The Dark Knight, the be and end all of comic book badassery, but I don’t care who you are, your boy dies, you take a few days off.

Have Nightwing do the rounds, or at least show him AFFECTED. A silent tear dribbling down his bat-cheek just pisses me off in truth.

But let’s discuss it as a stand-alone comic, not as a flip-off to the fans.

John Layman, aside from failing to write in Robin’s death in any kind of empowering way, has presented some fairly standard Batman plot. Penguin is getting routed out by one of his underlings, Ogilvy, who has now taken the title of ‘Emperor Penguin’ (A pun so delicious and left dangling in the writer’s face for so long that they finally just had to cave).

Zsasz gets out, and a few ‘counting’ puns are had, and Batman broods about how some shit is obviously going down (though its pretty much the same classic ‘Man, Gotham is screwed’ thoughts that he has swinging from cable to cable, making comment on how the night is quiet, but then isn’t.). This mysterious and so far entirely financial and non-threatening bad guy Emperor Penguin ends on the bombshell that he has the ‘Man-Bat serum’.

Oh great, Man-Bat, the single simplest character inversion ever known to man, who somehow wasn’t laughed away throughout the ages and still manages to plague the DC universe with his stupid, stupid face.

Admittedly, I’m not a Man-Bat fan.

I mean, Captain America doesn’t fight The American Captain, Catwoman doesn’t fight Womancat and Batman shouldn’t fight someone whose name, let alone entire devising, is so rudimentary and painfully obvious.

‘Opposite Day’ in comic book form. Someone hand me a noose. Oh, and I also hate Bizzarro. For the record.

To be entirely honest the writing for this one didn’t tickle me anywhere special, if you know what I mean. It paces poorly, with peaks smashing into troughs, low parts robbed of sentimentality or reflection by flaring high parts, resulting in a read that feels somewhat jarring and staggered.

And the thing that really rustles my jimmies is that, at the end, Emperor Penguin comments that his two biggest threats have been dealt with. If your biggest threats are both brought up and dealt with in one issue, I’ve got bad news: you’re a B-grade villain and are probably going to cop it from all ends soon.

The best I can say is: “Sure is Batman.”

The art however, credited to Jason Fabok, is quite striking.

The artist seems to have taken into account Batman’s mental state, with the brood-meter getting a slight cranking, and a satisfying amount of shadow falling conveniently over Batman’s face, allowing those eyes to peer through the darkness.

The Penguin is penned well too, with his crazy nose receiving a toning down in this issue in place of a realistic businessman air, which complements nicely with the upper-class money-play plot.

If I have one critique for Fabok it is this: Zsasz can always be more brutal. I felt that this issue somewhat white-washed his crazy killing. Even with another story contained within concerning Zsasz (this one written again by Layman and pencilled by Henrik Jonsson) the killer’s crazy commitment to killing is treated as very one dimensional and isn’t given the sheer brutality it should be credited.

Ahhhh… that’s more like it.

All in all, given the recent events in the Batman universe this issue just feels… flat. It doesn’t deal with anything, explore anything and even with all of the Damian gloom aside, it’s just a very  average Batman mag. Brucey kicks some people, a weak plot with thinly veiled mystery is happening, and a bunch of old Batman villains run about. Nothing special.

Rating: 5/10 – For purely average.

Note: The Damaged Goods Lucky Dip reviews are made up of various comic books that arrive damaged at All Star Comics. Without their generosity, this column wouldn’t exist.

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