Friday, October 28

Batman #1, Nightwing #1, Catwoman #1, Birds of Prey #1, and Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 (Nov 2011)

I'm going to try to keep this to some quick hits.

“Knife Trick”

Scott Snyder's transition from writing Dick Grayson Batman in Detective Comics to writing Bruce Wayne Batman in the New 52 doesn't constitute even a bump in the road. It's still great! A slightly different tone because they are different characters, sure – and a slight story misstep as well. My biggest qualm has to do with the “cliffhanger ending” – which seems a bit of a cop-out because who really believes that the murderer who tortured and killed some poor schlub and left a message – “Bruce Wayne will die tomorrow” – is really Dick Grayson whose DNA was under said schlub's fingernails? And, while the art is generally quite good, appropriately atmospheric, Greg Capullo needs to get a better grasp of the relative statures of Bruce and Dick, especially, and I would argue that Tim would be about the same height as the other two. I think they probably are all of a similar height at this point in their lives, even if Tim's been de-aged a bit; the main difference would likely be in their different builds. As shown, however, in a scene together, Dick looks about fifteen, Tim looks about twelve – and Damian looks about six! But otherwise, this is a fine relaunch issue – jumps right into a case, acknowledges the recent past, introduces a new status quo and barrels right along.

I really did like the introduction of all kinds of James Bond-esque high tech – holographic face-masks, computer interface contact lenses with facial recognition software and lipreading software included, some kind of remote DNA analysis link back to the Cave in his gauntlet. Wow! This tracks perfectly with the holographic camoflage for the entrance to the Cave and a holographic Alfred in one of the other titles so far – great consistency.

Greatest exchange: Dick, wondering why Bruce left him undercover as the Joker in Arkham for an extra day – there's the mission reason, to be sure of what they'd discovered by the mission, but also, “With all you've been shouldering lately,” Bruce says drolly, “I figured you could use the day off.” – “A day off in Arkham,” Dick replies, nonplussed. “Only you, Bruce … only you.”

(Note:  So Bruce Wayne actually has two assassins coming for him?  See Batman and Robin #1.  I knew he shouldn't have gotten involved with that Batman guy!)

“Welcome to Gotham”

Again, acknowledgment of the past – and move on. Dick is happy to be back as “himself” – Nightwing, albeit in a slightly different uniform that finally gives homage to his original crime-fighting guise of Robin in its crimson “nightwing bird” motif while retaining the basic sleekness of his most recent Nightwing uniform before he took on the mantle of the Bat “for almost a year.” (Although there is ambiguity in his interior monologue, “... while Bruce Wayne was … away.”) There is acknowledgment also that Gotham City threw a lot at him in that time – one of the central themes of Snyder's run on Dick in Detective was the malevolence that is inherent in the City itself.

In this kickoff issue, Dick returns to his childhood “home,” Haly's Circus, playing Gotham again after a long time … with the worry nagging him: “Gotham has a way of twisting the things you love – turning them against you. And after the last year, now I have to wonder … how is Gotham going to use this against me?” After a bit of trapeze work for old times' sake, Dick is ambushed in the streets – a costumed villain who brutally kills two cops who tried to intervene as Dick was distracted by his own change of garb, to Dick's horror. Villain doesn't know that Dick is Nightwing, though – it's at this point, proclaiming that Nightwing has “no idea who you're protecting,” that Villain pronounces the words heard half a world away by Supergirl – “Dick Grayson is the fiercest killer in all of Gotham. And he doesn't even know it.” Which throws Dick off guard enough that Villain gets the drop on him and the issue ends with it looking like he's about to be gutted like a fish. “Next: EVERYTHING BURNS.” Kyle Higgins and Eddy Barrows turn in a fine first issue that keeps me on board.

“... and most of the costumes stay on ...”

One of the two most controversial premiers of the New 52 – the new Catwoman, who seems way more the “bad girl” than she's been of late … including quite a bit more pure eye-candy titillation. Yes, we don't see Selina's face until page three – but plenty of shots of her half-clad boobs and skin-tight-leather-covered ass on pages one and two! And that pretty much sets the tone. There's not a whole lot else to this issue – Selina is attacked in her home, barely gets away with her cats before it is blown up, takes refuge with a friend who's also her fence and who puts her onto another “job” – where Selina, undercover, sees a figure from her past whom she had as a child witnessed killing her friend but who is no longer locked up. Well, he may have served his time, but Selina takes her own vengeance, violently and bloodily. In the temporarily vacated penthouse her fence/friend had hooked her up with, Selina has a visitor, Batman – which quickly and against his will ends up in a horizontal frenzy, although “most of the costumes stay on ...” “Next: THE MORNING AFTER.”

Overall, not terrible, although I have misgivings with this new, more overtly sexual and reckless Catwoman. I think this series will end up being my naughty, guilty pleasure of the New 52. The one thing I most dislike is the fact that she does not know Batman's identity, nor is she certain if he knows hers. That knowledge they shared previously, for the past several years – and the confidence she kept – put her firmly into the Bat-camp, and there was a real sense – at least I had it – that there was a real albeit complicated love between the two. Now it looks like she's just his naughty, guilty pleasure – well, and vice versa. I mean, how could there be “love” without that shared confidence?

The less said about that cover, and its (I think) pretty explicit symbolism, the better....

“Let Us Prey”

Some investigative reporter has been tracking a “covert ops team run by a bunch of supercriminal hotties” on behalf of some mysterious patron – and finds himself basically bait for a group of assassins tasked to kill said hottie ops team – the Birds. We jump right into the middle – in a church (new character Starling utters the words heard by Supergirl – “It had to be a church. … Like I'm not already damned as it is”), with Black Canary and Starling saving the reporter while a series of flashback scenes do establish a previous relationship between Dinah Lance and Barbara Gordon, although whether the latter ever fielded the Birds of Prey is left ambiguous. It could just as well be read that Dinah has been trying (unsuccessfully) to recruit the recovered Barbara, who wants nothing of it. Maybe it will become clearer with time. Anyway, after saving the reporter, it turns out that he himself is a weapon – when he goes KABLOOM right in their faces in an airport terminal. “Next: Mind Over [Deadly] Matters.

Again, jumping right into the action, catching my interest – introducing an intriguing new character in Starling who simultaneously I know virtually nothing about and feel like she's an old familiar character (maybe because she seems much like Zinda in her basic personality, at least to me). Duane Swierczynski picks up the reins from Gail Simone quite ably … and keeping Jesus Saiz who finished out the previous series provides a real sense of continuity. I'm in.

Incidentally, only Canary and Starling actually appear here.  Katana is suggested by Barbara to Dinah.  Poison Ivy only appears on the cover ... but I've got to say I like her new look.

“I Fought the Law and Kicked Its Butt!”

This is the only New 52 title I intentionally pre-ordered only the first issue, just on a whim, because it is tangentially grouped with the Bat titles. I am so glad I didn't keep the second and subsequent issues in my pull list. Oh. My. This is bad. Artwise, I was developing something of a liking for Kenneth Rocafort's style after my first visceral reaction against it in Action Comics. Here, without a good story carrying it, there's no reason for me to even try liking it. And the story is not good. Basically Jason Todd and Starfire bust Roy Harper out of some third world hell hole, then we find that New 52 Tamaraneans are sex-obsessed powerhouses with the memory of a goldfish. And there's just not any reason for me to go on. I really disliked this issue and don't feel like writing any more. This is off my pull list. With prejudice.

Oh, and this is that other most controversial New 52 title I mentioned above, along with Catwoman. Difference is, I basically like that character. These I don't. Even Starfire, whom I could previously take or leave, actually liked in the Teen Titans context and others. Not this interpretation, though.

Thanks for reading. Sorry for going out on a downer.

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