28 September 2012

the good the bat & the ugly

In general I have been pretty impressed with the quality of the Batman-related titles since the onset of the New 52.  I've dropped a few of them here and there, and have been ignoring Detective for the first time since I was old enough to spell the word "detective" - but overall it's been a pretty good run.  Lest we forget the fickle nature of this hobby, though, there was a single week in August that gave us one of the very best Batman titles of the year AND one of the very worst.  A Tale of Two Bats?  Read on!

Batman #12 (Scott Snyder/ Becky Cloonan/ Andy Clarke) goes into the "best" category.  Batman has been one of the top titles of the New 52 for me, but I have found it, at times, to be oddly paced.  That whole Court of Owls thing just went on and on and on, no?  Not so this issue, which was billed as an epilogue to that story but really wasn't.  Batman #12 is instead a one-off story featuring a new character named Harper Row, who appears in the background of a few of the previous issues but whose role and backstory aren't explained until this issue.  Most of the issue is drawn superbly by Becky Cloonan, who is awesome.  (Weirdly, it switches to Andy Clarke on art for the "backup", except the backup is a straight-on continuation of the main story.)  Batman appears only sporadically throughout the issue.

Back in the day I was a big fan of the John Ostrander/ Mary Mitchell Gotham Nights series that focused on the ordinary people of Gotham City, and of course in more recent years we got the excellent Gotham Central focusing on the cops.  This issue took me back to those series.  Too often the "norms" have been squeezed out of most of the DC and Marvel superhero books - everyone's a superhero or a villain or a secret agent or whatnot.  I would love - love - more issues like this, shorter stories about ordinary people whose lives are affected by superheroes.  Really a lovely issue all the way around, weird art change aside.  Snyder is SO good at this kind of story, I really wish he'd do more of them.

Batman & Robin #12 (Peter Tomasi/ Patrick Gleason) is, sadly, on the other end of the continuum.  This was the wrapup of the "War of the Robins" story that began in #10, and basically it's awful.

Here's the skinny: there are two plots running side by side in this arc.  The first - and probably the one most people cared about - involved Damian Wayne deciding he needs to prove his worth as a Robin by kicking the asses of all the previous Robins.  So in #10 he goes after Tim Drake, and in #11 he goes after Former Worm-Food Jason Todd.  It's stupid but y'know, Damian's 10, right?  So you can kind of get past the stupidity of the plot by remembering it's a scheme conceived by a child.  Whatever.

The other plot has a new villain named Terminus, who is dying of a terminal illness.  (Get it?)  He's assembled a group of people who were damaged by Batman - for example, a dude with a batarang stuck in him.  Terminus has decided to show Gotham City the collateral damage caused by Batman's presence - so he starts attacking people and blowing shit up.  This attracts the attention of Batman & Robin, who have a big fight with him that lasts through most of #12 (and which includes Batman changing into some sort of robo-armor).  After an extended fight, Terminus has Batman at his mercy - and then keels over.  Seems his time has run out - Terminus had calculated to the moment exactly when he would die.  So why did he wait until like an hour before his death to attack?  Uh.... because he's 10?  Oh wait, he's not.  

Anyway, even though he says he's calculated the moment of his death, he doesn't die when he falls over, so I guess not.  It's then revealed that Terminus has a rocket/ nuke which is now being activated, because he wants to blow up Gotham City, even though that is totally inconsistent with his stated motivations over the previous 2.5 issues.  The rocket seems to have been launched from somewhere at or near Gotham - into the air - and then back onto Gotham.  Apparently Terminus fails to recognize the unnecessary step he has added to his plan.  So Batman goes and stops the rocket, because it was cool when he did that in Dark Knight Rises.  Oh, and Terminus dies.  Sucker.

Red Robin, Red Hood, and Nightwing joined in the big fight for some reason, so all the Robins are left hanging around after the fight is over.  Nightwing casually tosses an escrima stick to Robin, stating in essence "You don't have to kick my ass too - you've got nothing to prove" - and thus the Robin plot is resolved in as anti-climactic a manner as possible - by having someone point out how stupid the whole thing was to begin with.  No, really.

There's something to be said for a big, stupid fight - I can excuse a lot in the name of a good spectacle - but this ain't it.  This is a horribly conceived, poorly thought-out story that's just inept on a technical as well as dramatic level.   

So that's the good and the bad of whichever week these two issues came out.  Almost hard to believe they were published in the same week, as they've got essentially nothing in common other than the word "Batman" in the title.


dl316bh said...

The whole Terminus storyline sounded like a weird bump in the road for a book that's been a consistent favorite of people since it debuted. I was sold on the premise of Damian fighting all the other Robins; silly as the reasoning may be, it's a simple, great hook. I wonder if it was supposed to be longer and the "Death of the Family" tie-ins the book was slated for necessitated it wrap early.

matches said...

The first arc was better, went on a bit too long but was pretty good overall. Tomasi has become prone to some really basic plotting errors over the last few issues, though. The Owl tie-in in #9 had a pretty significant one as well. I have no idea as to the cause.

The #0 was not bad though. I'm still not entirely sold on his characterization of Damian but I thought #0 was pretty well-executed.